10/26/2006 11:00PM

No horse shortage this meet


ARCADIA, Calif. - Two months after the installation of an already-popular synthetic racing surface, Hollywood Park has a full stable area in advance of the start of its fall meeting Wednesday, a change from past seasons when the stable area was sparsely populated, many horses shipped from Santa Anita to race, and everyday races were difficult to fill.

Racing secretary Martin Panza on Friday said that every stall is assigned in the barn area. Many Santa Anita-based trainers have moved to Hollywood Park in the last month or split their stables between the two tracks. In addition, the Eastern-based trainers Patrick Biancone, Richard Dutrow, Lisa Lewis, and Todd Pletcher are sending stables for the fall meeting.

Lewis arrived Thursday with 16 horses. The others are arriving in early November, Panza said.

In addition, some trainers report their stables have increased in size after owners from other states sent horses to California.

The response from horsemen has led Panza to expect large fields and hope that gamblers respond by generating increases in mutuel handle. He said it is possible that purses could be raised during the meeting, adding that the track was "very conservative" with its purses.

In fact, purses are lower for the start of this meeting than at the end of the 2005 fall meeting. For example, a starter allowance for female sprinters has a purse of $23,000 this year, $3,000 less than during the fall of 2005. A first-condition allowance race for sprinters has a purse of $43,000, $1,000 less than last year.

"If field size is what we hope it will be, handle should be way up, and we're hoping there can maybe be a purse increase," Panza said. "We'll have to wait and see. If people run and fields are up, gamblers should respond.

"I feel really confident that if people run, we can put on some of the best product that California has seen this year," he said. "In the 14 years I've been doing this job, this barn area for the fall meet has never been full."

The opening-day program has eight races, including the $60,000 Bien Bien Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf.

Considering that the Hollywood Park workout reports have included more than 100 horses daily in recent weeks, field size should be strong at the start of the meeting.

"There are a lot of people waiting [to run]," Panza said. "There is no doubt about it."

Panza said he envisions a more difficult job of assigning stalls for the track's spring-summer meeting in 2007. He said that trainers who do not run in coming weeks will have their stall allotments cut in the spring or be given nothing.

"The people that don't run will be thrown out of here on Dec. 17," he said.

In the past, with a barn area that included many empty shed rows, Panza was not in a position to make such a statement.

New chute won't be ready until Week 2

Hollywood Park installed a six-furlong chute on its turf course, but the new feature is not scheduled to be used until Nov. 8, the start of the second week.

The six-furlong chute will begin on the infield, near the start of the backstretch, and will join the oval portion of the turf course with approximately five furlongs to the finish.

Construction of the chute was completed in September, but is not available for the opening week because the surface needed more time to grow.

The first six-furlong turf race is expected to be a maiden race for fillies and mares on Nov. 8.

Previously, the track ran turf sprints over five and 5 1/2 furlongs. There are no races scheduled at those distances in the first two weeks. The distance of the $150,000 Hollywood Turf Express on Nov. 25, the premier turf sprint of the fall meeting, has been changed from 5 1/2 furlongs to six furlongs.

Plans for shopping center in the works

Santa Anita officials on Thursday presented the California Horse Racing Board with lavish plans to develop part of its parking lot into a shopping center, but the commissioners were more interested in the track's intention to improve the stable area.

Santa Anita has allied with Los Angeles commercial developer Rick Caruso to build "The Shops at Santa Anita." The proposed project, which would cover 825,000 square feet, would be modeled after "The Grove," a popular shopping center that was rebuilt in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles earlier this decade.

The Santa Anita project faces opposition from an existing shopping center adjacent to Santa Anita and may not start construction until 2009, pending possible lawsuits, Caruso said. He said an environmental impact report will be prepared over the winter. If delays occur, the proposed project may not open until 2011, Caruso said.

Caruso said "The Shops at Santa Anita" is designed to be an outdoor shopping center that would be connected to the track and would draw more customers to racing.

CHRB officials were adamant that Santa Anita make improvements to its aging barn area. Earlier this year, track president Ron Charles indicated that the track would replace two barns.

"Unfortunately we had problems with the city," Charles said.

CHRB chairman Richard Shapiro said he met recently with track chairman Frank Stronach, who told him that Santa Anita would "move forward to rebuild 10 barns and two dormitories."

CHRB officials told Santa Anita officials they want a progress report next month on backstretch renovation.

"The board should be more demanding on this issue," Shapiro said. "I suggest you get horses and people in houseable conditions."

* Whatsthescript, making his U.S. debut, won Thursday's $65,020 Pinjara Stakes for 2-year-olds, and could make his next start in the $100,000 Generous Stakes at Hollywood Park on Nov. 24. Ridden by Isaias Enriquez, Whatsthescript ($11.80) ran a mile on turf in 1:35.91, scoring by a half-length over Warning Zone.