02/10/2006 1:00AM

Purses get 5 percent bump


ARCADIA, Calif. - Santa Anita will raise overnight purses 5 percent on Wednesday and make the increase retroactive to the start of the winter-spring meeting on Dec. 26, track officials said Friday.

The increase is a result of strong business through the first seven weeks of the meeting, according to track president Ron Charles.

Ontrack attendance is up 25 percent and handle has grown 20 percent when compared with a rain-plagued 2004-05 meeting, Charles said.

"We're hitting television as hard as we can and marketing our product of racing," Charles said. "When you bring quality racing with full fields, people want to see it."

The retroactive increase is worth $500,000, which will be paid to owners whose horses have earned prize money from Dec. 26 through Sunday. The full increases will take effect Wednesday, with a gain of $1,000 to $3,000 per race, depending on the quality of the races. Purses for stakes will not be changed, according to racing secretary Mike Harlow.

Harlow said that average field size has reached approximately nine horses a race, and has significantly helped handle compared to the 2004-05 meeting, which had an average of about eight horses per race.

The increase takes effect a week before the meeting reaches its halfway point on Feb. 23.

"It's great to have this meeting a success and be almost halfway through the meet," Harlow said. "We've had competitive races so far - that's the feedback we're getting from horsemen and fans."

Weather has played a pivotal role in the success of this meeting. There has been minimal rain since late December compared to last year, which was one of the wettest on record.

Harlow said the increase will bring overnight purses to about $300,000 a day, up from $280,000 a day. With stakes purses included, Harlow said the increase will push daily distribution to approximately $450,000.

Declan's Moon back in training

Almost a year after his last start, Declan's Moon, the champion 2-year-old male of 2004, has resumed training with Ron Ellis at Hollywood Park.

Ellis is hopeful that Declan's Moon can resume racing in late spring or early summer.

Declan's Moon is tack-walking at Ellis's stable and will begin racetrack training in coming days, the trainer said. Last weekend, Declan's Moon underwent X-rays to determine whether he could withstand training after suffering a cannon bone injury last summer.

"I think we're good to go," Ellis said Friday. The X-rays "seem to be pretty good. He'll go to the track in the next couple of days and we'll take things pretty slow."

For the last six weeks, Declan's Moon has been walking in chest-high water at a local farm, a procedure that provides light exercise.

"It does offer some resistance and gets the ligaments stretched," Ellis said.

Owned by Mace and Samantha Siegel, Declan's Moon is unbeaten in five starts and has won $627,300. In 2004, Declan's Moon, a gelding, won four stakes, including the Hollywood Futurity, a victory that clinched his title.

He made one start in 2005, winning the Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita in March before being sidelined with a knee injury. After being given the spring off, Declan's Moon resumed training during the summer, but was sidelined by a cannon bone injury before he could make a start.

The latest comeback is designed to have Declan's Moon active in the second half of his 4-year-old season.

"We're hoping he'll have a long career," Ellis said.

Texcess to take shot at Big Cap

Texcess, who finished third in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic on Jan. 28, is being pointed for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 4, trainer Mike Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the absence of a handicap star in the Big Cap has made the 1 1/4-mile race more attractive for Texcess, 5, who will be an outsider.

"I don't see the sort of race like it was last year with Rock Hard Ten," he said. "I'll point him for that. I think it's a good race to take a shot."

Texcess was purchased for $300,000 at last month's Barretts January mixed sale, the most expensive horse sold at that two-day auction. He was bought by Carl Van Burger and Andy and Scott Anastasi.

The winner of the $1 million Delta Jackpot Stakes in 2004 when trained by Paul Aguirre, Texcess has won 3 of 13 starts and $925,365. He earned $120,000 for finishing third in the Sunshine Millions Classic, rallying from 10th in a field of 12 to finish 3 3/4 lengths behind Lava Man.

"I thought he ran good, and I only had him for four days," Mitchell said.

The champion California-bred 2-year-old male of 2004, Texcess has never run 1 1/4 miles.

"If he's ridden the right way, I think he can handle it," Mitchell said.

The Santa Anita Handicap has eight other probable starters - Borrego, Giacomo, High Limit, Lava Man, Spellbinder, Top This and That, Wilko, and With Distinction. High Limit, who has won the San Pasqual Handicap and Strub Stakes at this meeting, is the likely favorite.

Super Frolic, the 2005 Hawthorne Gold Cup winner who finished eighth in the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 4, is being prepared for a start in the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 25, trainer Vladimir Cerin said.

Cerin has not ruled out a start in the Big Cap for Super Frolic.

"The Dubai race is our goal," he said. "Whether the Santa Anita Handicap is part of the plan, we'll decide in the next week."

Pedroza fined by stewards

Jockey Martin Pedroza has been fined $1,500 for failing to ride Preppy Pilot to the finish of Wednesday's fifth race, a sprint for maiden claimers, according to a stewards' ruling.

Preppy Pilot finished third, a nose behind Raise a Dancer. Preppy Pilot was second in deep stretch until he was caught at the finish line by Raise a Dancer.

Pedroza said on Friday morning that he was looking out for the gelding in the final strides.

"All I was doing was protecting myself," he said. "In my mind, I thought this horse was going to go down. I did it for my safety and the safety of my fellow riders. He's not sore at all. He was just tired."