12/20/2008 1:00AM

Proud Tower Too nears return


Proud Tower Too indicated his readiness to return from a nearly two-year layoff on Friday morning with a major six-furlong work at his Sunland Park base. Trainer Sal Gonzalez said he would love to see Proud Tower Too, the 2006 winner of the Grade 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, make another appearance in the Golden Shaheen this coming March. The first step could come in the next three weeks, in an overnight race at Sunland.

"I got him three-quarters in 1:12 flat, and the clockers told me went in [1:15.40]," said Gonzalez. "He went great. He worked with another horse, they went evenly, and at the end he drew away from that other horse by five lengths.

"I was very pleased with the work. He didn't get as tired as I thought he would, so I think I'm going to work him three-quarters or seven furlongs next week, then five-eighths, then run him."

Proud Tower Too, 6, has not raced since Feb. 17, 2007, when he was second by a neck in the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap at Santa Anita. A tendon injury forced him to the sidelines, and while he was away from the track the multiple Grade 1 winner stood stud at Tommy Town Thoroughbreds in California.

"We bred 18 mares to him at the beginning of this year and they're all in foal," Gonzalez said.

Proud Tower Too made such a favorable physical impression this past summer that the decision was made to put him back in training. He began jogging at Gonzalez's farm in New Mexico in July, using a Eurosizer. The exercise machine works somewhat like a merry-go-round. A horse is allowed to be loose in one of six compartments, with the direction and speed in which he travels controlled.

"We wanted to put a good foundation in him, so we gave him 60 days in the Eurosizer," said Gonzalez, who trains Proud Tower Too, a $1.7 million earner, for Tricar Stable. "On Sept. 1, he started galloping, and I took him to Sunland."

Next month, the horse could head to Southern California.

"We want to see what he does, but the idea is to ship in to California, maybe at the end of next month, and see if he can run in some of those sprints at Santa Anita," he said. "If he does well, then we're thinking about going to Dubai.

"If not, he can just make more babies."

Remington plans prep for BC Sprint

Remington Park will be making some sweeping changes to its Thoroughbred stakes for 2009. The track plans to increase the purses for six of its major races and it has created a pair of sprint stakes designed to serve as Breeders' Cup preps. The $200,000 Remington Park Sprint Cup and the $100,000 Adena Springs Matchmaker for fillies and mares at six furlongs are both scheduled for opening weekend next year, on Aug. 22.

The stakes changes will come a year after Remington, which produced a Breeders' Cup Sprint starter this past October in Sing Baby Sing, was able to offer record purses thanks in part to its thriving slots casino.

"The class of horses that we're able to draw now, we felt that our stakes program needed some consolidation and some improvements," said Scott Wells, vice president of Remington. "It's all part of an effort to bring better horses here."

Remington also has increased the purse for next year's MEC Mile for

2-year-olds from $100,000 to $200,000. The track has moved the race from October to its closing day, Dec. 13, in an effort to make it more attractive to those with an eye to "classic campaigns," at 3, Wells said.

Wells said Remington also will increase the purse of its Oklahoma Derby from $350,000 to $400,000. The

1 1/8-mile race will be run Oct. 18. Stakes supporting it will include the Remington Park Oaks. A $75,000 stakes on turf this year, it will be run at 1 1/16 miles on dirt next year with a purse of $200,000.

Remington, which has not put out its complete stakes schedule for 2009, wrapped up its meet Sunday.

Greater Sunland presence for Hartman

Chris Hartman will have all his eggs in one basket as he attempts to win his third consecutive training title this meet at Sunland. Rather than split his stable as he has the last two seasons, all 50 horses that he has in training are now based in New Mexico. In the past, Hartman had kept divisions at either Turf Paradise or Oaklawn.

"I'm going to try and be as competitive as I can here," he said. "I've got 30 on the racetrack and 20 at a training center, which is more horses than I've had here. The last two years, we've done it with 30 horses and now we have 50."

Hartman said that while the numbers are up, he does have a lot of young horses so he will be looking to claim for certain spots. He was active in that area over opening weekend and was also active in the stakes ranks, winning the $50,000 KLAQ with Wind Water.

Hartman is in the midst of one of his best years, with 85 wins from 345 starters through Thursday for stable earnings of $1.7 million. He went 2 for 4 opening weekend at Sunland.

* A television commercial for Sam Houston Race Park has been selected as one of the funniest commercials of the year by Turner Broadcasting System. The commercial will air Dec. 23 on TBS as part of a special hosted by actor Kevin Nealon. The commercial is entitled the "Restroom Race."