05/31/2005 11:00PM

Purse increases at Del Mar

Berbatim, shown winning the Providencia at Santa Anita in April, will be a co-highweight in Sunday's Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Del Mar will increase purses in non-claiming races by $1,000 for its upcoming meeting from July 20 to Sept. 7, director of racing Tom Robbins said on Wednesday.

Del Mar is offering a slight increase in purses for maiden special weight and allowance-class races at the start of the meeting, Robbins said. Earlier this year, the track announced a record stakes program worth more than $6.7 million.

"We're on an upward trend," Robbins said.

The increase in maiden special weight and allowance-class races will mark a hike of approximately 2 percent in some races. A maiden special weight race for sprinters will be worth $50,000, while maiden special weight races at a mile or farther will be worth $52,000.

A first-condition allowance race for sprinters will be worth $55,000, while a similar race around two turns will be worth $59,000. No changes will be made to claiming races.

The increase is a reflection on strong business over the last two years that has led Del Mar to make retroactive purse increases of $500,959 in 2003 and $1 million in 2004. The payments were sent to horse owners several months after the conclusion of those meetings. The 2004 retroactive payments reflected a 7 percent purse increase.

Robbins said he has taken a conservative approach to the purse structure despite the business of the last two years. He is hoping that increased business will allow for even higher purses.

"There is nothing worse than announcing a purse cut halfway through the meeting," he said.

"If we can make a retroactive payment during the meeting, we will. Otherwise, we hope to do another Christmas bonus."

Injured Virden will miss Honeymoon

Virden, the upset winner of the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes over a mile on turf on May 8, will miss Sunday's $175,000 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park because of a bruised foot, trainer Dan McFarlane said.

"We're not going to go," McFarlane said. "It looks like she bruised a foot. We X-rayed it and it was clean."

McFarlane said Virden will be pointed for the $100,000 Flawlessly Stakes for 3-year-old fillies over a mile on turf on July 4.

Virden was one of three 3-year-old fillies assigned top weight of 119 pounds for the Grade 2 Honeymoon, which is run over 1 1/8 miles on turf. Owned by Dennis Weir, Virden has never been worse than third in seven starts, including three stakes wins. She won two stakes at Turf Paradise before making her California debut in the Senorita.

The Honeymoon is a vital prep for the $750,000 American Oaks over 1 1/4 miles on turf on July 3, and is expected to have a large field.

The other two fillies assigned 119 pounds - Berbatim and Louvain - are expected to start. Berbatim won the Grade 3 Providencia Stakes at Santa Anita on April 9, while Louvain is unraced since winning the Grade 3 Miesque Stakes here last November.

Saturday's top race is the $200,000 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap for fillies and mares over 1 1/16 miles. Jockey Gary Stevens, who has ridden in New York and Kentucky since early April, has the mount of the speedy Alphabet Kisses. Other probable starters are Andujar, Hollywood Story, House of Fortune, Siphon Honey and Star Parade, the defending champion.

Valenzuela to pass on England

Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, who has not ridden since May 8 because of a knee injury, has abandoned plans to ride Mighty Beau for trainer Jeff Mullins in England on June 14, according to his agent, Ron Ebanks.

Valenzuela is currently undergoing physical therapy on his right knee. Ebanks said Valenzuela is scheduled to consult with Dr. James Tibone on Monday on a potential comeback date. Tibone works closely with several Southern California jockeys.

Ebanks said the possible comeback dates that Valenzuela is targeting are the weekends of June 11-12 or June 18-19. Mighty Beau is scheduled to start in the King's Stand Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting in York, England, on June 14.

"Everything had to be done way in advance to go over there," Ebanks said of Royal Ascot. "I talked to Pat and said that might not be the best place to make a comeback. If you have to cancel it, it would put them in the bad situation. He's going to see Tibone on Monday and we'll learn what weekend is best" for a comeback.

Mullins said he has not decided on who will ride Mighty Beau.

Mighty Beau won the Grade 3 Aegon Turf Sprint over five furlongs on turf at Churchill Downs on May 6. Tuesday at Santa Anita, Mighty Beau worked five furlongs in 1:02.40 on the training track.

Singletary pointed to Firecracker

Singletary, fourth as the 9-5 favorite in Monday's Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile, will be pointed for the $250,000 Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap over a mile on turf at Churchill Downs on July 4, trainer Don Chatlos said.

Singletary, the winner of the 2004 Breeders' Cup Mile at Lone Star Park, has 1 victory in 3 starts this year, the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap at Santa Anita in April.

In the Shoemaker, Singletary was near a fast pace and faded to finish 4 1/2 lengths behind race winner Castledale.

"It's taken all year to teach him to relax," Chatlos said. "I was surprised he finished fourth."

Jockey David Flores said after that race that Singletary "was kind of aggressive. I wanted to give him a breather, but I never got a chance."

Chatlos said his long-term goal is a defense of the Breeders' Cup Mile title at Belmont Park on Oct. 29. He had considered giving Singletary the summer off before a prep race in September or October, but is taking a more active approach to a summer schedule. Chatlos said the Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap over a mile on turf on Sept. 4 is a possibility.

The Firecracker Handicap is a goal because the race is over a mile. Chatlos is convinced that the mile distance is ideal for Singletary - and not 1 1/8 miles.

"I don't want to start running him over a distance he won't win at," Chatlos said.