07/18/2008 12:00AM

Polytrack garners positive reviews

Benoit & Associates
Kilderry (No. 10) gets up by a nose to defeat Moral Compass in a division of the Oceanside Stakes on Wednesday. On the Polytrack, three track records were set during the opening-day card.

DEL MAR, Calif. - By virtue of his experience, jockey Garrett Gomez is an expert on riding North American synthetic tracks. From California to Kentucky to Illinois, he has firsthand encounters on virtually all of them.

What Gomez encountered at Del Mar on Wednesday's opening day led him to believe that the racetrack has solved the problems that plagued the 2007 season, the first year the Polytrack surface was used. Last year, the surface differed greatly from morning to afternoon and produced slow times.

"This morning it was fine, and the afternoon is excellent," Gomez said Wednesday. "I've had the opportunity to ride on a lot of these tracks. Some tracks, some do the wrong thing and some do the right thing. So far, so good."

Gomez said the track was not too concussive for horses.

"Horses are getting a hold of it," he said.

The reconditioned Del Mar racing surface drew favorable reviews from other jockeys and trainers. During the winter, the track added a new wax and began a program to water the surface to maintain cooler surface temperatures.

The results were noticeable immediately. Last year on opening day, a maiden special weight race for 2-year-olds went in 1:06.85 for 5 1/2 furlongs. This year, a California-bred maiden race for 2-year-olds over the same distance was run in 1:04.48, a track record set by race winner Miguel's Mascot. There were two other track records set on the day - a mile in 1:37.82 and six furlongs in 1:10.37.

Wednesday's first race, a one-mile race for $10,000 claimers, was timed in 1:37.82. Last year during the meeting, similar fields were timed in 1:42.10 and 1:41.43.

"Horses were winning all over the place - the front, the back," jockey Martin Pedroza said. "It's got a lot of bounce, too."

Jockey David Flores was concerned the track was not playing favorably to front-runners.

"It's the same as last year," Flores said. "The speed is not holding. You have to walk and get relaxed with your horse. I think it will be hard to hang on."

Flores thought the surface itself was safe.

"It seems better and I think there will be a difference," he said. "It's good this time."

There were two routes on the main track Wednesday. Plan for Fun won the first race, rallying from last, while Khun Dan beat maiden claimers in the last race over 1 1/16 miles by leading throughout.

Trainer Mike Mitchell said he was happy with the surface, but urged officials to do more watering. The track was watered before the first race and after the fourth race.

"I'd like to see them slow down the water truck," Mitchell said. "They should go around in third gear and not fourth gear. A little more water would be perfect."

Lava Man goes to detention barn early

When Lava Man arrived at Del Mar from Hollywood Park earlier this week, he went straight into a detention barn and not into trainer Doug O'Neill's stable.

O'Neill received permission from track officials to place Lava Man in detention in advance of the gelding's start in Sunday's $400,000 Eddie Read Handicap. All of O'Neill starters in California have run out of a 24-hour prerace detention barn since June 19 after one of his starters tested in excess of the permitted level of bicarbonates at Santa Anita earlier this year.

O'Neill's horses will start from a detention barn for 60 days, or until mid-August at Del Mar. The trainer was concerned that Lava Man would not handle the move from the O'Neill stable to the detention barn on Saturday afternoon, and asked for a special consideration from track officials.

"They were kind enough to put him in the detention barn from the get-go," O'Neill said. "I didn't want to move him around. He doesn't like his surroundings changed."

Lava Man finished third in the Grade 1 Charles Whitttingham Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 7, losing by a neck after leading by as many as seven lengths. It was his fifth consecutive loss, dating back to the 2007 Hollywood Gold Cup. O'Neill considered starting Lava Man in the Gold Cup last month, but passed, ending any chance for a record fourth consecutive win in the race by the gelding.

"I didn't have him right," O'Neill said. "He was too fatigued."

The Eddie Read has a field of seven, led by Whittingham runner-up Monzante and 2008 stakes winners Spring House and Whatsthescript.

Migliore heading to Saratoga

After riding through Monday here at Del Mar, jockey Richard Migliore will be leaving for Saratoga, returning to his New York roots.

"How many guys get to ride opening week at Del Mar and opening week at Saratoga," Migliore said. "It's a hell of a daily double."

Migliore, a mainstay in New York for two decades, relocated to California nearly two years ago. Last summer at Del Mar, he won the meet's biggest race, the Pacific Classic, with Student Council.

But by riding in California, Migliore was away from his wife and four children - who remained in New York - for extended periods of time.

"This will be a better balance, trying to balance the personal with the professional," Migliore said. "It's time for all of us to be in the same place at the same time. I hope at some point to be back.

As recently as earlier this month, Migliore seemed to be leaning toward staying at Del Mar, as he told handicapper Brad Free for an article in Del Mar Scene magazine.

"I'll still be coming back here to ride," he said. "I'll be back next Saturday to ride Ginger Pop in the San Clemente.

"The people here have been very understanding, especially Bill Spawr. He's been very good to me on a lot of levels. He's been extremely loyal. He's been terrific."

Marino Marini gets first winner as sire

Miguel's Mascot gave the California-based stallion Marino Marini his first winner in Wednesday's fifth race at Del Mar.

Trained by Eric Kruljac for Tom Clark's Rancho San Miguel farm, Miguel's Mascot won the maiden race for statebreds by 2 1/4 lengths, drawing off in the final furlong. Miguel's Mascot was making his second start, having finished second in his debut at Hollywood Park on July 2.

Kruljac said Miguel's Mascot will start in a stakes later at the meeting, possibly the $150,000 Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 10 or the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 3.

"This colt should go on," Kruljac said.

Marino Marini, 8, stands for $5,000 at Rancho San Miguel in San Miguel, Calif. He was a stakes winner in Ireland and stakes-placed in the United States.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman