04/26/2006 12:00AM

Promising import for Mandella

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Melanyhasthepapers, with Victor Espinoza up, wins the $63,000 Cougar II Stakes on Wednesday's opening day card at Hollywood Park.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - For Prospect Park, the future is more vital than the results of his American debut in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Inglewood Handicap on the turf at Hollywood Park.

Imported from France last winter, Prospect Park had the sort of form in Europe that could make him an important horse in American turf racing.

The problem facing him Saturday is that Prospect Park, who has never won at a distance shorter than 1 1/4 miles, may find the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Inglewood too short.

"I think it's too short and he doesn't train with a lot of enthusiasm," said trainer Richard Mandella. "He'll probably need a race. I don't want to make any predictions."

A glance at Prospect Park's record reveals his promise. A winner of 5 of 13 starts and $542,136, Prospect Park, 5, has won three stakes in his career, but the races he has lost have been arguably as impressive. Prospect Park was second by a head in the 2004 French Derby and second by a nose in the Group 2 Prix Niel in 2004, an important prep race to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Owned by Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, Prospect Park was favored in the 2004 Arc - at 5-1 - but was rank early and faded to finish 16th in a field of 19. In his most recent start, Prospect Park finished 11th in the Grade 1 Champion Stakes at Newmarket, England, last October. Mandella is familiar with the form of that race. The winner, David Junior, returned to beat Mandella's The Tin Man in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free in late March.

Prospect Park was entered in an allowance race at Santa Anita on March 31, but did not start after tying up on the day of the race.

"He just had a bad day," Mandella said.

Mandella said he envisions the Inglewood Handicap as a prep to the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Handicap at 1 1/4 miles on June 10.

The Inglewood Handicap field is expected to include Red Fort, the runner-up in the 2005 running; Willow O Wisp, the winner of the 2005 Del Mar Derby; and Artiste Royal, a stakes winner in France last year.

Melanyhasthepapers wins Cougar II

Melanyhasthepapers won his first stakes since September in Wednesday's $63,000 Cougar II Stakes, the first race of the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Melanyhasthepapers ($3.20) stalked the pace to the top of the stretch before pulling away to win by three lengths over Tobe Suave. Melanyhasthepapers ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.29.

Deal restores TVG betting

The Thoroughbred Owners of California and the TVG network reached an agreement Wednesday in a dispute over the distribution of revenue from TVG's telephone and Internet system.

The dispute threatened to cancel betting via TVG on Hollywood Park's opening day program. Betting service was restored on TVG in time for the first race.

Representatives of the TOC, TVG, and Hollywood Park met with California Horse Racing Board chairman Richard Shapiro on Wednesday and reached a tentative agreement.

According to TOC president Drew Couto, the dispute centers on the hub fee that TVG receives on bets placed by California residents on out-of-state Thoroughbred races. Hub fees are the amount of revenue that account-wagering systems such as TVG receive for hosting the wagers.

Couto said there is no dispute between TOC and TVG on the hub fees for bets made by California residents on Hollywood Park races. He said the issue of hub fees for out-of-state Thoroughbred races may not be resolved until June 5, when state Sen. Dean Florez conducts a meeting on the subject in Sacramento.

The issue surfaced earlier this year, with intervention from Florez. The two sides reached an agreement then put the disputed funds into a "quasi-escrow" account, according to Couto.

The TOC is the official representative of horsemen in the state and must approve all purse contracts. A TVG official did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Committee focuses on racing dates

A committee of the California Horse Racing Board will hold a series of meetings to discuss racing dates at the state's Thoroughbred tracks. The first scheduled meeting for the committee was scheduled for Wednesday but was canceled, the board announced in a recent statement.

When meetings are eventually held, the primary purpose of the committee will be to discuss racing dates over a multi-year period instead of one year at a time, which has been the practice in the past. In addition, the dates committee will meet more frequently than in past years.

The committee will consist of chairman Richard Shapiro and vice-chairman Marie Moretti.

The racing dates issue came to the fore last year with the sale of Hollywood Park to the Bay Meadows Land Co. Executives with Bay Meadows indicated they could develop the track in three years if an alternative form of gambling is not found to supplement revenue.

As a result, officials with Fairplex Park and Los Alamitos have stated a desire to expand their tracks to accommodate top-class Thorough-bred racing in the event that Hollywood Park closes.

Shapiro said on Wednesday that a new date has not been scheduled to discuss racing dates.

"It makes sense to talk to some of the key players, such as racetrack operators and horsemen, so that everyone will come to the discussion in a positive light and we can have the best possible outcome," Shapiro said Wednesday.

In a statement released by the CHRB, Shapiro said it was unclear whether the board could issue racing dates several years in advance. "My business is real estate, and I know that when a tenant signs a lease that tenant is committed for the term of the lease," he said. "In a sense, the state of California is leasing race dates or meets to the track operators, and we need to hold them responsible in order to protect and serve the racing industry in California."