07/16/2010 3:44PM

Hollywood considers four-day race week


INGLEWOOD, Calif. − In an effort to preserve field size, Hollywood Park may run four days a week during its autumn meeting later this year, track president Jack Liebau said Friday.

Hollywood Park has run a mix of four- and five-day weeks during the current summer meeting and primarily ran five days a week during last year’s autumn meeting.

Hollywood Park has been granted from Nov. 3 to Dec. 19 for its autumn meeting, but the track has not finalized how many days of racing will be conducted during the meeting. Liebau said one scenario is for Hollywood Park to open Thursday evening, Nov. 4, run four-day weeks through November, and perhaps switch to five-day weeks in December, depending on the availability of horses.

Hollywood must decide on the number of dates it will race before it presents its application for the meeting to the California Horse Racing Board in mid-September. By then, Hollywood Park officials will have a chance to assess how field size affected the Del Mar meeting, which opens Wednesday and runs through Sept. 8.

“We don’t know whether we’ll run four days a week in November and five days in December,” Liebau said. “It depends on what we see and how it goes at Del Mar.”

The possibility of a four-day week comes after the current spring-summer meeting has seen a drop in average field size compared to 2009. Through Thursday, with three cards to be run during the meet, fields have averaged 7.69 starters per race, compared to 7.94 for the entire 2009 spring-summer meeting. The track has cancelled three days of live racing at the current meeting because of insufficient entries, most recently Thursday, July 8.

In the fall, Hollywood Park will be running live racing in conjunction with Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5-6. As a result, the track will offer racing on the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 5, rather than at night, as usual.

The Nov. 4 program would be the second Thursday night program this year. On the evening of July 1, in advance of the Fourth of July weekend, Hollywood Park attracted an ontrack crowd of 10,029, many lured by a post-races concert. The all-sources handle of $5.2 million was down from $5.5 million on the preceding Thursday, an afternoon card. Account-wagering handle was $913,675 on July 1, much higher than the $646,920 the preceding Thursday, but out-of-state handle fell from $2.8 million on June 24 to $2.1 million on July 1.

The Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting ends Sunday, and Liebau said the all-sources handle will be down “11 or 12 percent” from 2009.

“We haven’t felt any pressure from the purse account,” Liebau said. “From that perspective, it’s been a success.”

Before the meeting started in April, Hollywood Park redirected some available money from a marketing fund to enhance purses for lower level claimers.

Lookin At Lucky works seven furlongs

Lookin At Lucky, the winner of the Preakness Stakes on May 15 and the champion 2-year-old male of 2009, worked seven furlongs in 1:26 at Santa Anita on Thursday.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Lookin At Lucky is being pointed for the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 1, which would be his first start since the Preakness.

The colt missed a week of training in June because of illness, but Baffert has expressed confidence in recent weeks that the setback will not curtail Lookin At Lucky’s chances for a start in the Haskell.

O’Neill nipping at Baffert’s heels

Through Thursday, Baffert had 25 wins at the meeting, trailing leader Doug O’Neill by two victories. The meeting ends Sunday.

Baffert said the addition of assistant trainer Mike Marlow to his staff last summer has helped his overall team. Marlow oversees Baffert’s Hollywood Park division.

Baffert had two wins Thursday, an optional claimer with Spurrier and a maiden race for 2-year-old fillies with the highly promising A Z Warrior, who is owned by Zayat Stable. Baffert said A Z Warrior is a candidate for the $150,000 Sorrento Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar on Aug. 6.

In Thursday’s race, A Z Warrior led throughout and drew off to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Indian Gracey, finishing 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.14.

“I was hoping she’d do that,” Baffert said. “She needed the race. When I get these horses started, I can tell who the stars are, and she’s on the list.”

O’Neill has five runners on Sunday’s closing day, including Scofield Barracks in an allowance race for California-breds.

O’Neill returned from a 15-day suspension Thursday for a total carbon dioxide overage found in a starter in Illinois in April. During the suspension, O’Neill did not have any starters through his assistant, Leandro Mora, a common practice when a trainer is suspended.

When the suspension began, O’Neill had a six-race lead over Mike Mitchell in the trainer’s standings. He did not expect to preserve the lead during the suspension. “I thought I’d be looking up at Mitchell, [John] Sadler, and Baffert when I got back,” he said.

The absence of runners in recent weeks will make for a busy start to Del Mar, O’Neill said. As of Friday, O’Neill said he has nine candidates for Wednesday’s opening day program.

Lewis to train horses at Saratoga

Lisa Lewis said Thursday that she has accepted a private training position for William Schettine and will have 24 horses at Saratoga this summer.

Lewis, 41, trained in Southern California from late 2006 until earlier this summer, having been based in New York for much of her career.

Schettine operates Signature Stallions in Reddick, Fla.

“It’s a good opportunity,” Lewis said. “He has the mares and the brothers and sisters. It’s good for me that I can take the time and do what’s best for the horses.”

Lewis’s California stable suffered terrible fortune earlier this summer when Black Astor, the winner of the 2009 Sunset Handicap, died as a result of a pelvis injury, the trainer said. Black Astor underwent a throat operation and suffered the injury while recovering from anesthesia, she said.