04/17/2008 12:00AM

Money galore, but horses scarce at first


Delaware Park's slots-fueled economy is sufficient for the track to offer $40,000 for a maiden special weight race and $5.3 million worth of stakes for 2008.

Yet when entries were drawn for Saturday's season-opening card, Delaware's racing secretary, Izzy Trejo, had to scramble to come up with 52 horses for eight races, not counting the traditional card finale for Arabians.

As of midweek, Delaware's 1,450 stalls were only about half full, and until a steady influx of horses make their way north from Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs, small fields will probably be the rule rather than the exception.

Trejo said he is optimistic the horse population will swell from 700 to 1,000 by this weekend, with several hundred more to follow once Gulfstream ends its meet on Sunday and Tampa follows suit on May 4.

Trejo intends to card however many races he can fill on a daily basis, even if it means fewer than the traditional nine or 10.

"We're hoping that means 10 a day, nine of them for Thoroughbreds," Trejo said.

Actually, a shortage of horses is nothing new at Delaware, especially early in the season. On opening day last April, only 45 Thoroughbreds ran in eight races.

Trejo said he is also working with racing secretaries P.J. Campo in New York, Mike Dempsey in New Jersey, and Sal Sinatra at Philadelphia Park to avoid stakes-schedule conflicts whenever possible.

"We've all agreed to cut back on our overnight stakes and to avoid conflicting stakes on the major weekends for each track," he said.

The informal agreement also calls for each track to hold one marathon race a month in anticipation of the first Breeders' Cup Marathon this fall. Delaware's contribution will be the Kelso on Aug. 23, lengthened from 1 3/16 miles to 1 1/2 miles.

Overall, Delaware will offer 32 stakes, highlighted by the $1 million Delaware Handicap. The Grade 2 Delaware Handicap is now part of the Breeders' Cup's Win and You're In program, guaranteeing the winner a berth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. The 1 1/4-mile race for fillies and mares headlines Delaware's $2.5 million Festival of Racing, a weekend package of seven stakes on July 12-13.

Two new juvenile stakes, the Go for the Green and the Fairway Fillies, will be worth $100,000 apiece on Sept. 13. The Go for the Green was created to serve as a prep for the BC Juvenile Turf.

Scott Lake, winner of the last six training titles, will seek to tie the track record of seven in a row set by Bud Delp from 1963-69.

The opening-day feature, the $100,000 Peach Blossom at six furlongs, drew a field of six 3-year-old fillies, led by True Intentions. Based in New York with trainer Gary Contessa, True Intentions won her career debut by six lengths at Delaware last May and most recently finished a distant fourth in the Grade 3 Cicada at Aqueduct.