07/24/2006 11:00PM

Invasion from the north


DEL MAR, Calif. - Welcome to Santa Rosa!

You might feel that way on Thursday at Del Mar. With Jeff Bonde, Greg Gilchrist, Jerry Hollendorfer, and Terry Knight all represented in the day's featured seventh race, Del Mar is being invaded by northern California-based trainers.

The second-level allowance sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs drew a field of nine, with the Gilchrist-trained Smokey Stover among the leading contenders. He will have to get past locally based Record, who is returning to an allowance race and a sprint after finding the two turns of the Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park beyond his scope.

Gilchrist, best known for training last year's champion sprinter Lost in the Fog, sent out Smokey Stover to a pair of wins in three starts at Golden Gate earlier this year. Smokey Stover earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 105 when he won a minor stakes race on April 2. Smokey Stover has not raced since then, however, because Gilchrist could not get an allowance race or an overnight stakes for him.

"It's been kind of a nightmare," Gilchrist said Tuesday from his barn at Golden Gate. "It's been 3 1/2 months since his last race. I've probably worked him 12 or 13 times. It's hard to keep a horse at his peak for that long. I know he's a talented horse."

Gilchrist sent Smokey Stover here for a seven-furlong allowance race for 3-year-olds on Thursday, but that race was scrapped by the racing office.

Record won a maiden race at this distance at Santa Anita, then later captured the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs. He has a two wins and a second in three tries around one turn.

Knight is hoping for a fast pace for Old Man River, who was a distant second in the Sam Whiting Handicap at Pleasanton in his last start. Old Man River has sprinted on turf, gone long on turf, and sprinted on dirt in his last three starts.

"I don't know what he wants to do," Knight said. "He doesn't know what I want; maybe that's a better way of putting it. I thought he was going to be a route horse, but his sprints are better.

"He ran well in a sprint the other day. I don't know for sure if that's his niche. He's kind of one-paced. He needs some pace in front of him."

Bonde has Desert Smoke, who scored a front-running victory in an allowance race at Pleasanton last time out. Hollendorfer has Dr. Einstein, whose best races have been going long on the lead.