07/14/2009 11:00PM

Mini-satellite system starts in L.A.


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The long-awaited launch of the California mini-satellite system begins Friday, with the opening of a betting parlor in the Commerce Casino, near downtown Los Angeles.

Commerce officials plan to open the mini-satellite for Friday's Hollywood Park evening program and intend to have a more full-scale opening for Wednesday's opening day at Del Mar.

Legislation allowing mini-satellites was passed in 2007 and is designed to expand off-track betting to card clubs and sports bars throughout the state. The launch has taken longer than expected. The California Horse Racing Board finalized the rule-making process for the mini-satellites last December. The Commerce Casino is the first of as many as 45 approved venues in the state, with 15 each allowed in the regions of Southern California, central California, and Northern California.

Racing officials hope that such mini-satellites will expand the off-track betting market at a time when the existing satellites at racetracks and county fairgrounds have seen a downturn in business because of a poor economy and competition from account-wagering.

The Commerce mini-satellite has occupancy for 104 people, although casino officials expect considerable traffic from card players who venture in to make bets and then return to the poker room.

The Commerce Casino is the first mini-satellite to be approved by the racing board. Racing officials have held discussions with sports bars in areas away from racetracks, with the hope that more mini-satellites can be developed in coming months.

Coronet of a Baron targets Oceanside

Coronet of a Baron, third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita last October, could make his 2009 debut in the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar on Wednesday, trainer Eoin Harty said.

Owned by Darley Stable, Coronet of a Baron arrived at Harty's Santa Anita stable in late June, having been based in Kentucky in the spring. Coronet of a Baron's participation in the Oceanside depends on the outcome of a workout in coming days. Harty said that the colt could be rerouted to an allowance race.

Last year, Coronet of a Baron won his maiden at Arlington Park and made two starts at Del Mar. He finished third in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes but was promoted to second when a rival was disqualified. In the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity last December, Coronet of a Baron finished second by a nose to eventual 2-year-old male champion Midshipman.

Coronet of a Baron led in the final furlong of the Juvenile Turf and was beaten 2 1/4 lengths by Donativum.

He has won 1 of 4 starts and $209,800.

Big goals for Well Armed, Colonel John

Harty's stable could have a major role in the older horse division in coming weeks.

Well Armed, the winner of the $6 million Dubai World Cup in March in his most recent start, is on course for the $250,000 San Diego Handicap over 1 1/16 miles at Del Mar Aug. 2. Well Armed's long-term goal for the Del Mar meeting is the richest race of the season, the $1omillion Pacific Classic on Sept. 6.

Colonel John, winner of the 2008 Santa Anita Derby, is nearing a comeback following an illness in the spring. Harty said Colonel John will be nominated for the San Diego as well as stakes at Saratoga and Woodbine.

Harty is leaning toward giving Colonel John a start in a Grade 1 race over 1 1/8 miles during the Saratoga meeting - in either the $750,000 Whitney Handicap on Aug. 8 or the $500,000 Woodward Stakes on Sept. 5.

Advice returning to synthetic track in Swaps

Colonel John and Well Armed are owned by WinStar Farm, who will start Advice in Saturday's $300,000 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park.

The Swaps Stakes is run over 1 1/8 miles on the synthetic main track and will be Advice's first start on such a surface since a win in the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland in April.

"We want to play to his strength," trainer Todd Pletcher said earlier this week.

Advice has won 2 of 5 starts on synthetic tracks, and $229,885 of his career earnings of $269,896. Following the win in the Lexington Stakes, Advice finished a troubled 13th in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Grade 2 Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs on June 13 in his turf debut.

Pletcher was not discouraged by the loss in the Jefferson Cup, since the race was run at a slow pace and Advice is a closer.

"The race is much better than it looks on paper," he said.

Advice was part of Pletcher's California stable last winter, finishing third in an allowance race at Santa Anita in his only start on this circuit.

In the Swaps, Advice is part of an expected field of eight, led by Grazen, winner of the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap here June 20.