02/22/2007 1:00AM

Lobo likes Molengao going longer


ARCADIA, Calif. - The stretch rally that carried Molengao to a narrow win in the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 4 has left trainer Paulo Lobo eager to run the horse in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 3.

Since last summer, when Molengao finished second in the Grade 2 Sunset Breeders' Cup Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf, Lobo has been wanting to try the 6-year-old in long races on dirt.

The Santa Anita Handicap over 1o1/4 miles on the main track is the first opportunity.

"I love the mile and a quarter," Lobo said.

Lobo says that Molengao has trained well since the San Antonio, which was run over 1 1/8 miles. He cited a six-furlong workout in 1:14.80 at Hollywood Park on Thursday as proof.

"He worked very well," Lobo said. "He's been improving since the middle of last year. After the Sunset, he had a problem with one ankle. I had to stop."

Molengao finished third in the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park in December in his comeback.

"He ran well coming from a long layoff," Lobo said. "I think he's getting better. Let's see what we have."

Owned by Stud TNT, Molengao will be a mid-priced longshot in an expected field of 10. The Big Cap is expected to be led by defending champion Lava Man, a 10-time stakes winner. Other probable starters are Arson Squad, Awesome Gem, Ball Four, Boboman, Brother Derek, El Roblar, McCann's Mojave and Spring at Last.

Racing board looks to future

Uncertainty over the future of Hollywood Park has led to renewed calls for the California Thoroughbred industry to develop contingency plans for year-round racing and stabling in Southern California as soon as late 2008.

At California Horse Racing Board meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, officials discussed the possibility that Hollywood Park could close next year.

Hollywood Park is owned by the Bay Meadows Land Co., which purchased the track from Churchill Downs in 2005. At the time, Bay Meadows officials committed to three years of live racing, and said it would pursue developing the track property if alternative forms of revenue, such as allowances for slot machines, or "mitigating" payments from Native American tribes, did not occur.

Racing officials have been in negotiations with Native American tribes that operate casinos in the state, and legislation on alternative revenue for the state's racetracks could be introduced in coming weeks, officials said.

Wednesday, Hollywood Park's president, Jack Liebau, said the track was committed to operating through Sept. 23, 2008, but did not commit beyond that. Thursday, track general manager Eual Wyatt said Hollywood Park could run beyond that date.

"We are committing to that date, we could run further, and I think we will," Wyatt said at the racing board's monthly meeting. "I won't want to give anyone in this room the impression that that will be the last days that Hollywood will run. We could run through that date for a variety of reasons."

His statement was not good enough for Cliff Goodrich, the former president of Santa Anita who is now a consultant for Fairplex Park. Goodrich called for Hollywood Park to make its intentions clear and give officials time to pursue other options in the event of closure.

Ideas mentioned in recent years if Hollywood closes include expanding Fairplex Park and Los Alamitos to accommodate one-mile tracks, or expanding racing dates at Del Mar or Santa Anita.

"Mitigation may fail," Goodrich said. "Hollywood is holding the industry hostage. No one is going to stick a shovel in the ground or spend $100 million while Hollywood is looking at options."

The sport's future has been discussed in recent weeks by two ad-hoc committees of racing executives.

"If racing is no longer possible at Hollywood Park, we would be displacing 2,000 horses," said the racing board's chairman, Richard Shapiro. "When you look at the time frame necessary to improve any of the options we have, a mountain is ahead of us."

Birthday celebration for Threewitt

Trainer Noble Threewitt is retiring on Saturday on his 96th birthday, and will be honored in a winner's circle ceremony at Santa Anita.

A video tribute of Threewitt's training career, which began in the 1930's, will be presented on the track's in-house television system. In addition, Saturday is Noble Threewitt Day in Arcadia in recognition of the trainer, who was in attendance at Santa Anita on the track's opening day in 1934.

Threewitt, who has been troubled with vision problems in recent months, has been urged to retire by his family.

Pedroza in car crash

Jockey Martin Pedroza took off his three mounts on Thursday after being involved in a head-on car accident in nearby Duarte, Calif., on Wednesday, according to his agent, Richie Silverstein.

Pedroza was driving a car with two passengers, his fiancee and her daughter, Silverstein said.

"All three got banged up pretty good," Silverstein said. Pedroza was driving a Cadillac Escalade.

Silverstein said that Pedroza was hoping to return to riding on Friday. Through Monday, Pedroza was tied for ninth in the standings at the winter-spring meeting with 12 wins.