05/01/2008 11:00PM

O'Neill sending string to Delaware


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Trainer Doug O'Neill is sending an eight-horse stable to Delaware Park later this month, which he described as "a little experiment" to keep some of his horses on dirt.

O'Neill, who has won 20 trainer titles in Southern California in the last six years, said the horses will be sent to Delaware on May 14. It will mark the first time that O'Neill, 39, has had a stable based away from Southern California. He has approximately 90 horses in training at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita.

"This is a little experiment with horses that maybe we want to try on the dirt," he said. "Don't get me wrong. I love synthetic tracks, but I want to have the option."

The three major Southern California tracks - Del Mar, Hollywood Park, and Santa Anita - each has some form of synthetic surface.

O'Neill said he has been considering such a move "for a year or so."

O'Neill said the roster of horses that will be going has not been finalized, but is likely to include Overextended, a 3-year-old colt by Monarchos who was seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Monmouth Park last October. Overextended has made four starts since that race, but has not won. He was seventh in an allowance race on the main track at Santa Anita last month.

"He's a horse that is all out to be competitive in an allowance race," O'Neill said. "I think he could be capable of winning a stakes" on dirt.

There is a chance that the group would include Great Hunter, who was third in the 2006 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and fifth in the $6 million Dubai World Cup in the Middle East in March.

O'Neill said his Delaware Park stable would race at other tracks in the Mid-Atlantic area.

Hold the champagne!

O'Neill's stable had mixed results on California Gold Rush Day, winning the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes with the longshot maiden Harlene, but finishing only third in the $150,000 Khaled Stakes with the multi-millionaire Lava Man.

Plans for both horses include races at Hollywood Park, O'Neill said.

Harlene, who was winless in six starts before the Snow Chief Stakes, will be pointed to a first-condition allowance race O'Neill said.

"In our post-race festivities, we were thinking the Ohio Derby," O'Neill said, "but when we got the speed figure . . . "

Harlene was given a modest Beyer Speed Figure of 77, which indicates the gelding will need to show considerable improvement to win a graded stakes.

Lava Man, who was making his first start of the year in the Khaled Stakes, is on course for a graded stakes in late May or June. O'Neill said the Californian Stakes on May 31 or the Charles Whittingham Handicap on June 7 are possibilities. A winner of 17 of 44 starts and $5,232,706, Lava Man has won both stakes.

Madeo a 3-year-old on rise

The Triple Crown arrived too soon in the career of Madeo, but the promising 3-year-old colt is not far away from his stakes debut.

After winning a first-condition allowance race over 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park on Wednesday in his first start against winners, Madeo may start in a graded stakes in coming weeks, possibly the $100,000 Affirmed Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on June 15. It's the championship race of the meeting for 3-year-old males, the $350,000 Swaps Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on July 12, that has the long-term attention of trainer John Shirreffs.

Owned by breeders Jerry and Ann Moss, Madeo won Wednesday's race by 1 1/4 lengths, rallying from fifth in a field of nine. He ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.66, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 93.

"What he has is the acceleration," Shirreffs said. "He can pick up horses. He's very focused. What really surprised me is that he broke from the [outside], and didn't veer out. For a young, inexperienced horse, he's really good."

Madeo made his career debut on March 1, finishing fifth after a slow start. He rebounded to win a seven-furlong maiden race by 6 1/4 lengths on March 23, but had not developed sufficiently by early spring to be tried in the major 3-year-old races in April.

Ups and downs in a 24-hour span

On Wednesday, trainer Mike Harrington watched in delight as the first-time starter Atka zipped 4 1/2 furlongs in 51.34 seconds to win a maiden race for 2-year-old fillies by 3o1/2 lengths and set a track record.

On Thursday, Harrington watched in dismay as the first-time starter Crude Oil zipped out of the gate in a maiden race over 4 1/2 furlongs for 2-year-olds and immediately began bucking before unseating jockey Richard Migliore. Neither rider nor horse was hurt. The race was won by Comic Club, a Comic Strip colt trained by Marty Jones.

In about 24 hours, Harrington had received a stern reminder of the vagaries of racing.

"That's horse racing," Harrington said. "He's a little that way. I never dreamed that would happen."

At least Atka gave the stable an excellent start to the week. She will be pointed for the $75,000 Cinderella Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs on May 25, Harrington said. By Swiss Yodeler, Atka was bred by Harrington and his wife, Patricia, and is owned by the couple.

"She's better than I thought she was," Harrington said. "I was impressed with the way she lengthened her stride when she goes by the other horses. For a young horse to do that is quite impressive."

Harrington has a barn with many race-ready 2-year-olds, including the colt Fast Notch, who will run in a maiden race next week.

Champs Elysees, Boule d'Or may meet

Champs Elysees, the winner of the San Marcos Stakes in January, and Boule d'Or, the winner of the San Luis Rey Handicap in March, are the two leading contenders for the $250,000 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap here next Saturday.

Champs Elysees returned from the San Marcos Stakes to finish third in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap March 1 on the synthetic main track, his first start on that surface. A 5-year-old horse, Champs Elysees will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez in the Murray, trainer Bobby Frankel said.

The other expected starters in the race over 1 1/2 miles on turf are defending champion On the Acorn, Church Service, and possibly Sudan and Victorian Prince.