08/12/2005 11:00PM

Outstanding meet could improve for Bone

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DEL MAR, Calif. - With claimers and one major stakes horse, racehorse owner Bob Bone is having a remarkably successful meeting at Del Mar this summer.

Through Friday, Bone led all owners with 10 wins, highlighted by Choctaw Nation's win in the $250,000 San Diego Handicap on July 24.

Choctaw Nation is Bone's hope in the $1 million Pacific Classic next Sunday.

"He's doing as good as he could be doing," Bone said.

Bone's wins include seven claiming races, two optional claimers, and the San Diego Handicap. Jeff Mullins trained nine of Bone's winners; Art Sherman was the trainer of Noble Masterpiece on July 22.

"It's been fantastic," Bone said of the first half of the meeting. "I'm really excited about some of the claims I've made. I've claimed three or four maidens and a nice group of older horses. This is a place to gear for."

For Bone, who lives near Sacramento, the focus of his stable is claiming horses. Bone actively searches out prospects and then turns to trainers to make a final physical examination before the claim is submitted. Few days go by when Bone does not confer with Mullins about possible claims.

Choctaw Nation, claimed by Bone for $40,000 in February 2004, is seeking his first Grade 1 win.

Choctaw Nation was fourth in the 2004 Pacific Classic. He was third in the $6 million Dubai World Cup earlier this year.

In a probable Pacific Classic field of 10, Bone fears the Hollywood Gold Cup winner, Lava Man.

"If he runs his race as well as he can, we're all running for second," Bone said of Lava Man. "I think he's the one to beat."

Norman horse said to test positive

Cole Norman, the Louisiana-based trainer, had a horse test positive for an excessive level of carbon dioxide in a race at Del Mar last month, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Norman has run one horse at Del Mar this summer - Top Commander, who finished fifth in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Handicap over six furlongs on July 31.

Dr. Rick Arthur, who is heading the consortium of racetracks and racing organizations conducting the testing, said he "could not confirm or deny" that Norman had had a horse test positive. Arthur did say that a trainer has been asked to appear at a meeting with consortium officials at Del Mar on Wednesday and that the consortium has notified the California Horse Racing Board that a trainer has been found to have an excessive level of carbon dioxide.

"After the meeting we will release the name of the horse and the trainer and say what action the committee has taken," Arthur said.

Phone calls and text messages to Norman on Saturday were not returned.

Blood tests for carbon dioxide levels have been conducted in California since the beginning of the year. Horses are allowed to have up to 37 millimoles of carbon dioxide per liter of plasma in tests taken before racing. Four trainers had horses test positive at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting, and there was one positive test during the Hollywood Park meeting.

Earlier this year, trainers who had horses test positive for excessive carbon dioxide levels have had their horses placed under surveillance for a 24-hour period before they race. The surveillance period lasted 30 days.

Half of Three Degrees sold

Richard Bonnycastle's Harlequin Ranches has sold its 50 percent interest in Three Degrees, the winner of the Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 5, to David Bienstock and Chuck Winner. The remaining 50 percent will remain the property of Mary DiPietro, Braden Huenefeld, Michael Rosenmayer, and Aron Wellman.

Three Degrees, who worked seven furlongs on turf in 1:28.40 on Saturday, is expected to start in the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks over 1 1/8 miles on turf this Saturday. Three Degrees finished fifth in the Grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood Park on July 3 in her last start.

Alternate selections are back

Bettors will be able to make alternate selections in the pick four, pick six, and place pick-all at Del Mar effective Monday, the track announced on Friday.

The alternate selection, which is available only via bet cards, has not been available since the pick six scandal hit the Breeders' Cup at Arlington Park in 2002.

Officials with Scientific Games, the tote company at Del Mar, had told the state racing board that the alternate provision would be restored by July 20, the opening day at Del Mar, but were more than three weeks late because of software complications.

According to the Del Mar mutuels manager, Bill Navarro, the provision will only be available on races at Del Mar, and not the northern California fair circuit.