07/15/2001 11:00PM

New turf course passes first-day test

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Del Mar's newly renovated turf course was open for business for the first time Monday morning, two days before opening day, and 16 horses gave it a test run. They included the top middle-distance turf horse Irish Prize, who could make his next start in the $400,000 Eddie Read Handicap on July 28. He was timed in 1:04.40 for five furlongs.

Keemoon, like Irish Prize a Neil Drysdale trainee, looked particularly sharp working a half-mile in company with Sign of Hope. She was timed in 49.20 seconds, and clockers deservedly labeled it breezing.

Orange cones, called dogs, were placed on the course, each more than halfway from the inner rail to the outer rail, so horses had to travel quite wide on the turns. As such, the times were generally slow. But the course produced minimal kickback and had such a deep cushion that the horses made little noise as they traveled around the oval. When the works were over, a few divots were noticeable, akin to a fairway at a golf course.

Another 90 horses worked on the main track, which has been open for less than one week but has received praise for being in good shape.

"The track's really good," said Dana Barnes, the top exercise rider for trainer Bob Baffert.

Among those who worked on the main track Monday was Budroyale, who worked seven furlongs in 1:26.60 as he nears a possible return in the $250,000 San Diego Handicap here on July 29. Budroyale's work was the best of four at the distance.

Kona Gold ready for Bing Crosby

Kona Gold, who will defend his title in Sunday's $200,000 Bing Crosby Handicap at six furlongs, is raring to go after being freshened during Hollywood Park's meeting. He is scheduled to blow out three furlongs on Thursday morning, according to his trainer, Bruce Headley.

"I hope he's as good as last year. You couldn't ask for him to be any better," Headley said. "The track feels good, and he likes it. He wants to go. He knows where he's at. It seems like it's invigorating for a horse to move to another spot."

Now 7, Kona Gold will have a summer and fall schedule mirroring last year's, according to Headley. Kona Gold went on to win the 2000 Breeders' Cup Sprint and was named the nation's champion sprinter. Betting menu

Del Mar has added the rolling double to its wagering menu. Also new is a $1 pick four on the final four races each day. Early bird wagering is available daily from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. It lasts until 1 p.m. on Fridays.

Full-card simulcasts will be available each day from New York, with Belmont Park on the menu this week and Saratoga beginning next Wednesday, July 25. First post from New York each day is 10 a.m. Pacific time. Arlington Park will be the other main simulcast site, from Wednesdays through Sundays, with the signal from Calder offered on Mondays.

Full cards from the fairs in northern California also are available. By state law, California tracks can import only two full cards from out of state each day plus selected races from other out-of-state venues.

Flores misses end of Hollywood

David Flores, who was kicked in the chin in a paddock accident last Friday, took off his mounts midway through Saturday's program and did not ride the remainder of the Hollywood Park meeting, which concluded Monday.

Flores, who suffered several cracked teeth and needed stitches to close a wound on his chin, rode one winner on Saturday, Covincing in the first race. He took off later in the day, complaining of shoulder pain.

At lunchtime on Monday, he was at the dentist, having his teeth repaired. "I had to take off to fix my teeth," he said. "My shoulder is still sore. I'll be ready for Wednesday."

Flores has six rides on Wednesday's opening day, including the well-regarded Macabe in the eighth race, the second division of the Oceanside Stakes.

Whither Frankel's stars

Trainer Bobby Frankel's top handicap horses - Aptitude, Euchre, Lido Palace, and Skimming - will race throughout the country in August.

Skimming, who was placed second in the Hollywood Gold Cup following the disqualification of Futural, will be pointed for the $250,000 San Diego Handicap on July 29 and the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 19, races he won last year. The other three will race in the East. Euchre, who won the Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows, may start in the $350,000 Iselin Handicap at Monmouth on Aug. 26.

Aptitude and Lido Palace will run at Saratoga. Lido Palace, second in the Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park on July 1, is being pointed for the $750,000 Whitney Handicap on

July 28 while Aptitude, promoted to first in the Hollywood Gold Cup, will prepare for the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap on Aug. 19, Frankel said.

Music, music, music

The first of Del Mar's Friday night concert series this week features Echo and the Bunnymen. The Smithereens, Ozomatli, and Common Sense are among those featured on subsequent Fridays.

On Wednesdays, beginning next week, Del Mar plays host to jazz concerts. First up is The Steely Damned, which plays covers of songs by Steely Dan. Bobby Hutcherson and Pancho Sanchez are among those who will headline other Wednesday evening concerts.

Both sets of concerts are free with general admission. They begin soon after the day's final race.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen

for DRF's expanded Del Mar coverage.