07/19/2007 12:00AM

Polytrack slow but comfortable, jockeys say


DEL MAR, Calif. - Any preconceived notion of what tactics to use on Del Mar's new Polytrack surface turned out to be meaningless to jockey Corey Nakatani.

"All the people that said you had to win from the front or come from behind, you throw all those things out," Nakatani said.

Nakatani rode three winners on Wednesday, including two of the five races run on Polytrack. Afterward, he was one of several jockeys who praised the condition of the course, even though it produced slow times.

"The track is very comfortable," Nakatani said. "It has a lot of bounce. It's slow, but it's softer. If you have fast times, you have horses that get injured."

Nakatani won the fifth race for maiden claimers aboard Run Forest Run, who ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:20.06. He rode Matty G Whiz to victory in a $10,000 claimer in the sixth race, finishing 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:20.37. Both horses raced near the pace.

In the sixth race, jockey Victor Espinoza finished second aboard Your Quote, who closed to within three-quarters of a length of Matty G Whiz. Espinoza said the course was tiring.

"It feels like we set a good pace, but in the stretch they slow down," Espinoza said. "I like the way it is. It will help a lot of the horses. It will give them more confidence."

Record numbers for opening day

Del Mar set opening-day records for ontrack attendance and all-sources handle Wednesday.

A crowd of 42,842 packed the grandstands and infield on Wednesday, a record for opening day and the second-highest ontrack crowd in Del Mar history. The appearance of Cigar in the 1996 Pacific Classic drew 44,181.

The all-sources handle, which includes simulcast locations across the country and telephone and Internet betting, was $15,297,608, a gain of 2.3 percent over last year. The ontrack handle of $4,677,817 increased $38,883 over 2006.

"It kind of looked like a party," said track president Joe Harper. "From what I saw, everyone was smiling."

For fans, that meant enduring long lines to reach betting windows and bathrooms and to order food and drink. Harper said the large crowd tests Del Mar's staff and logistics.

"To have your biggest crowd on opening day, operationally that's a nightmare," he said.

Oceanside winners target derby

The three winners of divisions of the Oceanside Stakes - Ten a Penny, Knockout Artist, and Vauquelin - will be pointed for the $400,000 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 2. There is a chance that Vauquelin, who won the third division, may start in the $150,000 La Jolla Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on turf on Aug. 11.

Owned by Mark Dedemonico, Vauquelin ($7) rallied from last in a field of nine to win the one-mile turf race by a length over Yario, finishing in 1:36.78. Espinoza weaved Vauquelin between horses through the stretch, a ride that impressed trainer Kathy Walsh.

"A lot of times those doors get shut," Walsh said of the trip.

The race was marred by the breakdown after the finish of Mayor Bozarth, the 8-5 favorite. He was euthanized in the stable area after being examined by three veterinarians, according to Dr. Rick Arthur, the California Horse Racing Board's equine medical director.

Arthur said that Mayor Bozarth suffered a condylar fracture of the sesamoid and pastern of his left hind leg. He described the injury as similar to the one suffered by Barbaro in the 2006 Preakness Stakes.

Michael Baze, the leading rider of the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting, rode Ten a Penny and Knockout Artist.

Ten a Penny rallied wide to win the first division by 1 1/2 lengths over Unusual Suspect in 1:35.51. An English import, Ten a Penny is owned by Joe Masino and Tom Arndt and trained by Craig Dollase.

Knockout Artist closed from eighth along the rail to win the second division by a head over Medici Code. Trained by Art Sherman for George Krikorian, Knockout Artist was timed in 1:35.45.