10/08/2004 12:00AM

McCarron resigns as general manager


ARCADIA, Calif. - Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron said Friday that he will step down as general manager at Santa Anita in the near future, but intends to remain in a management capacity at Santa Anita and the track's parent company, Magna Entertainment.

McCarron has served as general manager at Santa Anita since April 2003.

"My role is being redefined to relieve me of some of the responsibilities of G.M.," McCarron said. "I will continue in a capacity of the things I've been doing already, things like horsemen's relations and jockeys' relations. I'll continue to work with the marketing team to get the word out on Santa Anita and Magna."

George Haines, currently the assistant general manager, will be promoted to general manager, McCarron said.

McCarron retired from riding in June 2002. He spent the winter of 2002-03 working as a consultant on the movie "Seabiscuit."

McCarron said the general manager position required more time than he anticipated.

"For the past 18 months I've spent a great deal of time trying to learn every aspect of being a G.M.," he said, mentioning budgets and labor issues. "It's preventing me from doing the things I do best.

"I'm not going anywhere," he said. "This will afford me an opportunity to take some decent vacation time."

Bailey to ride Kela in Sprint

Jerry Bailey has been booked to ride the multiple stakes winner Kela in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30, Kela's trainer, Mike Mitchell, said Thursday.

Kela has not started since winning the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien Handicap by 4 1/2 lengths at Del Mar on Aug. 15, his third stakes win of the year.

Tyler Baze rode Kela to wins in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup Handicap in July and in the seven-furlong Pat O'Brien in August, but is expected to ride Our New Recruit in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Our New Recruit won the $2 million Golden Shaheen Sprint in Dubai in March and the restricted Pirate's Bounty Handicap last month.

Mitchell said he wanted a commitment from a rider as soon as possible. Bailey has never ridden Kela.

"I had to lock up a rider," Mitchell said.

A 6-year-old, Kela was never considered a candidate for Sunday's $250,000 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita. Mitchell said he feels Kela will be better being trained up to the Sprint, which is run over six furlongs.

"The Breeders' Cup is the only thing I'm focused on," Mitchell said. "I don't care about the Ancient Title. I might have done things differently if they had the Ancient Title last week, but 20 days to the Breeders' Cup is too soon."

After the Pat O'Brien, Kela was sent to a farm in Hemet, Calif., for a three-week break. He has been with Mitchell at Hollywood Park since Sept. 1. "He's an easy horse to train," Mitchell said. "I was looking to give him some kind of a break."

Southern Image to race at 5

With his persistent foot problems now apparently behind him, Southern Image has begun light training in preparation for a return to the races next year at age 5. But there has been plenty of behind-the-scenes activity centering around him. His owners were being pursued by several breeding farms, but offers to stand him at stud were rejected. In addition, changes in Southern Image's ownership could be imminent, because one of the partners wants out.

Allen Tepper, who along with Don Blahut and Tom and Jerry Kagele forms the partnership that owns Southern Image, has been seeking a resolution to issues he has had with his fellow owners and trainer Mike Machowsky. As a result, Tom Kagele will meet with Tepper early next week to seek a financial resolution that would allow Tepper to get out and the remaining partners to continue racing Southern Image with Machowsky, who has guided Southern Image to Grade 1 victories in the Malibu Stakes, Santa Anita Handicap, and Pimlico Special.

"We went down the road with the farms, but things didn't work out, so we're going to run the horse as long as we can," Tom Kagele said. "Mike did stop on the horse, but he's back tack-walking. He'll probably come back next spring, in April or May. Our goal will be the Pacific Classic at Del Mar and the Breeders' Cup Classic."

Southern Image has not raced since finishing second in the Stephen Foster Handicap in June at Churchill Downs.

Mitchell atop trainer standings

Mitchell leads the trainers' race at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, with six winners from nine starters in the first seven days of the meeting. Bob Baffert is second with four wins.

Mitchell said earlier this year that he decided to start more runners in claiming races. The strategy resulted in more victories. At Del Mar, Mitchell finished the meeting with 16 wins, good for fourth in the standings.

"I've been a little more aggressive," he said. "I was tired of getting beat up, of looking in the Form and finding three of four horses that can beat me. I try to place them where they can win and not worry if I'll lose them."

Ramser Handicap tops Monday card

There is Monday racing this week, and the program is highlighted by the $100,000 Harold Ramser Handicap over a mile on turf for 3-year-old fillies.

The race drew 11 entrants, including Sweet Win, the winner of the San Clemente Handicap at Del Mar; Lovely Rafaela, the winner of the Honeymoon Handicap at Hollywood Park in June; and Penny's Fortune, who won the Carmel Handicap at Bay Meadows last month.

Farina return set for Sunday

French jockey Tony Farina has returned to Southern California and is booked on two mounts Sunday - Dust Cover in the seventh and Repulse Bay in the ninth.

Farina has not ridden in California since the spring of 2003. In March 2003, Farina was involved in a spill that forced the retirement of jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. Farina received a seven-day suspension for that incident.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman