02/26/2009 1:00AM

O'Neill's pair passing on Big Cap


ARCADIA, Calif. - The $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 7 lost two potential starters Thursday when trainer Doug O'Neill said that Informed and Slew's Tiznow will be directed to other races.

Informed, second in the San Pasqual Handicap on Jan. 10 and fourth in the San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 8, will make his next start in the $1 million Godolphin Mile in Dubai on March 28. O'Neill said he was told that Informed had been invited on Thursday morning.

Slew's Tiznow, fourth in the San Fernando Stakes on Jan. 17 and 12th in the Strub Stakes on Feb. 7, will start in the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds on March 14.

Informed, 5, has yet to win a stakes in his 17-race career.

"We were going to the Big Cap if we didn't get invited" to Dubai, O'Neill said. The race in Dubai "gives the horse more time. For $1 million, it's a great opportunity."

O'Neill said the expected large field in the Big Cap is a factor in sending Slew's Tiznow to New Orleans.

"We're thinking of changing it up and getting away from a 12- to 14-horse field," he said.

With their absences, the Big Cap is expected to have a field of at least 13 - Blue Exit, Champs Elysees, Colonel John, Court Vision, Cowboy Cal, Dansant, Einstein, Magnum, Matto Mondo, Monba, Tiago, Victory Pete, and Zambezi Sun. Mast Track and Nownownow also are candidates for the $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf the March 7.

Del Mar may seek fewer days

Del Mar officials said Wednesday that the track is holding discussions about reducing its 43-day race meeting this summer.

Del Mar executive vice president Craig Fravel said the discussions were in the preliminary stage. One option being considered is reducing the number of Mondays. Fravel declined to provide details of a potential plan.

"We're still in the discussion and analysis stage," Fravel said.

Del Mar is scheduled to run Wednesdays through Mondays from July 22 to Sept. 9. The track is expected to formally request racing days from the California Horse Racing Board in April.

There is concern from Del Mar officials that a reduction in horse population in Southern California could hamper the meeting. Last year, Del Mar averaged 8.59 horses per race, down from an average of 8.63 horses in 2007.

In recent months, some Southern California trainers have said their stable rosters are down, as owners reduce their holdings amid a troubled economy. While Santa Anita's stable is full, Hollywood Park's stable area is not at capacity. That could change in coming months as 2-year-olds are sent to the track.

Fravel said Del Mar must seek approval for a reduction of racing dates from four authorities - its own board of directors, the board of the Del Mar fair grounds, the state racetrack leasing committee, and the California Horse Racing Board.

Balfour Park, Unbridled Roman opt for Sham

Balfour Park, claimed for $100,000 in a maiden race on Jan. 28, was scratched from an allowance race Thursday in favor of Saturday's $200,000 Sham Stakes.

Trainer Craig Lewis said the lure of a Triple Crown prep was too much to pass.

"We tossed the dice for $100,000 and we'll toss the dice again," he said. "We'll go for the money and see what we've got. Nobody knows what he is, including me."

Balfour Park finished fifth and third in his first two starts before winning the $100,000 claimer over a mile. The Sham Stakes is run over 1 1/8 miles.

"He's got a long fuse," Lewis said. "The mile and an eighth should suit him."

Unbridled Roman also was scratched from Thursday's allowance race for the Sham. Trained by Christopher Paasch, Unbridled Roman was second in an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 29.

Kelly Leak possible for Santa Anita Derby

Kelly Leak, winner of an allowance race over a mile on turf last Sunday, may resurface in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 4, trainer Mike Machowsky said.

Kelly Leak rallied from sixth in a field of 10 to win by 1 1/4 lengths as the 9-5 favorite last weekend. The allowance race was Kelly Leak's second win in seven starts and first on turf.

"He runs on anything and he came out of it well," Machowsky said.

Kelly Leak is not nominated for the Triple Crown and may be made eligible next month.

"I don't have Derby fever yet because I haven't nominated him," Machowsky said. "We'll see how it plays out over the next few weeks."

Kelly Leak beat maidens in his debut last June at Hollywood Park. In the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes last August, Kelly Leak finished first but was disqualified and placed fourth for causing interference in the stretch. A colt by Runaway Groom, Kelly Leak was turned out last fall following a 10th-place finish in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity.

Fundraiser for family of slain owners

More than 1,100 friends and family of horse owners Joseph and Alicia Ortega will attend a fundraiser in the Santa Anita infield Saturday. The Ortegas were among nine people killed in a shooting and fire in their home in nearby Covina, Calif., on Dec. 24.

Saturday's event will help the family with costs.

Saturday, their friends will be rooting on Return of the King in the fourth race. The 7-year-old gelding is trained by David Bernstein and is owned by James and Charles Ortega, grandsons of the couple.