04/12/2007 11:00PM

Jockeys head to Australia to test surface


ARCADIA, Calif. - Jockeys Aaron Gryder and Richard Migliore and Santa Anita president Ron Charles are scheduled to travel to Australia on Sunday evening on a fact-finding mission to inspect a synthetic surface in that country that could be installed at Santa Anita this summer.

Gryder and Migliore are scheduled to exercise "four or five horses" at Gosford Park and Rosehill racecourses in New South Wales, Charles said. Both tracks use a Pro-Ride brand surface, which is one of four synthetic surfaces being considered for the Santa Anita main track.

Santa Anita is scheduled to install a synthetic track this summer as part of a mandate from the California Horse Racing Board that all Thoroughbred tracks that run a minimum of four consecutive weeks of racing have such a surface in place by the end of 2007.

Aside from Pro-Ride, Santa Anita is considering Cushion Track, which is being used at Hollywood Park; Polytrack, which is in place at Keeneland, Turfway Park, and Woodbine and is being installed at Del Mar; and Tapeta Footing, which will be installed at Golden Gate Fields this summer.

Charles said a decision on a surface will be made by the end of April. This is the second time that Charles has traveled to Australia, but the first time that jockeys have been part of the trip.

"We want to get the opinions from some very experienced riders that have ridden on the various synthetic surfaces," Charles said. "We want to be as thorough as possible before we make a final decision."

The two jockeys and Charles are scheduled to return to California on Wednesday.

Hollywood boosts maiden purses

Hollywood Park will begin its spring-summer meeting on April 25 with a purse schedule nearly identical to that of the 2006 spring-summer meet.

The condition book detailing the races for the first two weeks of the meeting was released on Thursday. One notable change is an increase in purses for maiden special weight races. The purse for such races for sprinters has been raised $1,000 to $47,000, while the purse for maiden special weight races around two turns has been raised $2,000 to $48,000, according to racing secretary Martin Panza.

Purses for many classes are the same as last year. For example, a $10,000 claiming race for female sprinters remains at $14,000, and a first-condition allowance race for 3-year-old fillies over a mile is worth $51,000.

The upcoming spring-summer meeting will be the first in Hollywood Park history to be run on a synthetic surface. The track installed a Cushion Track surface last summer, and the surface was used for the first time at the fall meeting.

The surface proved to be a success. Hollywood Park had larger field size and an increase in handle from the previous fall meet. The track had a retroactive purse increase of 3 percent and held $400,000 in reserve for purses at the 2007 fall meeting, according to Panza.

Panza is guardedly optimistic that the 2008 spring-summer meeting will be equally well received and that a purse increase can be enacted.

"If everything stays the same, we hope it will follow the fall meeting," he said.

Panza said he was reluctant to predict what kind of business the meeting would have. "I don't want to jinx myself," he said. "If field size is up and handle is up, we might be in a position to do something."

Panza said the track will have a full barn area on opening day, and that a majority of the trainers based at Hollywood Park during the winter were asked to reduce their stall allotments to allow other trainers to have space.

"We are pretty well full right now," he said on Thursday. "We will be absolutely full for the meeting."

Balance might make Kentucky trip

Balance, the leading older female in Southern California, will make her next start in May at Churchill Downs or Hollywood Park, trainer David Hofmans said.

Balance, 4, might start in the Grade 2 Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap at Churchill Downs on May 4 or the $175,000 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 3.

Balance won the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes for 4-year-old fillies in February and the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap for fillies and mares last month.

Balance is owned by John and Jerry and Amerman and has won four graded stakes.

Santa Anita Derby aftermath

Several of the also-rans from the Santa Anita Derby on April 7 will be given a rest or tried on turf or in sprints, their trainers said earlier this week.

Black Seventeen, who finished eighth after setting the pace, is being considered for the $100,000 Laz Barrera Memorial Stakes over seven furlongs at Hollywood Park on May 20, trainer Brian Koriner said.

Boutrous, who finished second in the California Derby at Bay Meadows in January and was ninth in the Santa Anita Derby, "will get a little time off," trainer Craig Dollase said.

Level Red, who ran last of 10 in the derby, will return on turf.

"He has the pedigree for it," his trainer, Hofmans, said. "I don't think he liked the track" on Santa Anita Derby Day.

As for Try to Fly, who won his stakes debut in the San Pedro Stakes over 6o1/2 furlongs on April 8, the Barrera Stakes is a possibility for his next start, according to trainer Doug O'Neill.

Meet ends with three turf stakes

The Santa Anita winter-spring meeting ends next weekend with three major turf stakes.

The richest race of the closing weekend is the $250,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap over the marathon distance of about 1 3/4 miles on turf on Sunday. The race will include One Off, the winner of the San Marcos Stakes in January.

Saturday's program features the $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap for fillies and mares over 1 1/4 miles on turf and the $100,000 San Simeon Handicap over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course.

Siren Lure, who was third in the 2006 San Simeon, is a probable starter for this year's race.