08/11/2008 12:00AM

Riders beef after Best Pal disqualification


DEL MAR, Calif. - When the Best Pal Stakes was made official on Sunday at Del Mar following a lengthy inquiry, it was all over but for the shouting. And the fighting.

Boos emanated from the stands from those who disagreed that Kelly Leak should have been disqualified from victory in favor of Azul Leon, and jockey Victor Espinoza, the rider of Kelly Leak, got into a scrap with Rafael Bejarano, the rider of Azul Leon, in the jockeys' room after the race.

On Monday afternoon, Del Mar's three stewards suspended Espinoza three days for careless riding. But a hearing regarding the fight, and possible penalties resulting from that, will not be held until Wednesday morning, according to Tom Ward, one of the stewards. Del Mar is closed on Tuesday.

The disqualification of Kelly Leak seemed justified. He drifted out at the top of the stretch, carrying Azul Leon wider. Then, after Kelly Leak continued to drift out, Azul Leon altered course to the inside, and Kelly Leak, in turn, came back in. Those two bumped, setting off a chain reaction that also involved Coronet of a Baron and Charlie's Moment.

"He cost me the race," Bejarano said of Espinoza. "He was coming out really bad, so I tried to come in the middle. He saw me, and he started coming in. My horse deserved to win."

"I do feel if he had clear sailing, he'd have gotten up and won," said Doug O'Neill, who trains Azul Leon.

Espinoza said he did not agree with the disqualification, and blamed Bejarano for the incident.

"It's not my fault if the other jockey can't ride his horse," Espinoza said. "He just happened to be in the wrong place."

Kelly Leak was found at fault for the incident, and was placed fourth, behind Charlie's Moment. Scott Chaney, another of Del Mar's stewards, said the stewards also looked at whether Coronet of a Baron, who originally finished third, contributed to the bumping, but determined he did not.

"We thought the 5 horse [Coronet of a Baron] was being tipped outward by getting hit on the hip by the 8 horse [Charlie's Moment], who was getting pressure from the outside," Chaney said.

"I was just trying to ride my horse and hold my ground," said Corey Nakatani, who rode Coronet of a Baron.

"That was a dangerous situation," said Jon Court, who rode Charlie's Moment.

Futurity isn't in the plans

Neither O'Neill nor Mike Machowsky, who trains Kelly Leak, seemed inclined to come back in the Grade 1, $250,000 Del Mar Futurity on closing day, Sept. 3. Both said they likely will await the Norfolk Stakes on Sept. 27 at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Oct. 25.

"Win, lose, or draw, we had decided before the race not to go in the Del Mar Futurity," O'Neill said. "Before he ever ran, we came up with a game plan to get him to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. We circled that as our ideal goal, and worked our way back."

"It's only 3 1/2 weeks between the Best Pal and the Futurity, and I'm not comfortable with that," Machowsky said. "We'll play it by ear and see how he's doing. But I like waiting until Oak Tree and then having four weeks to the Breeders' Cup."

O'Neill could have a Del Mar Futurity runner in Wild Wild Posse, who defeated maidens by 1 3/4 lengths in his debut on Saturday.

"It's a possibility. We'll wait a week after the race and then huddle up," O'Neill said. "He seems like a Breeders' Cup Juvenile kind of horse."

Horse kicks McAnally

Having been sent to an orphanage at age 5, Ron McAnally has been through the school of hard knocks. But he took quite a blow early Sunday morning, when a racehorse being accompanied by a pony kicked the Hall of Fame trainer on the left hip, opening a gash that had blood streaming down his pant leg, according to his assistant, Dan Landers.

"The toe grab punctured him," Landers said of McAnally, 76. "It happened when he first was walking into work. He came in here and said he had been kicked, then went upstairs to watch horses train. A little while later, he came back down, and his whole leg was soaked in blood.

"They took him to first aid, and the X-rays were fine, but he has to take care of the wound. They couldn't close it up with stitches. They had to pack it. He has to take it easy for a few days. He's a tough son of a gun."

Koriner fined for drug positive

Trainer Brian Koriner was fined $400 by Del Mar's stewards as a result of his horse Potential testing for an excessive amount of the legal anti-inflammatory flunixin when working to get off the veterinarian's list on June 21 at Hollywood Park.

Under California Horse Racing Board rules, a horse who has a workout in order to be removed from the veterinarian's list must pass a subsequent drug test.

In past years, if a violation occurred, the horse merely had to work again and test clean. But new rules enacted this year call for the trainer to be sanctioned.

"The horse worked for the vet, and did exceed the maximum allowed for that medication," Ward said. "Before, you just had to work again to get off the vet's list. But now it's treated as if it's a violation in a race."

Big crowd, big appetite

Del Mar had its second-largest crowd of the season on Saturday, when 39,679 fans came through the turnstiles. The ontrack handle was just $2,963,506.80, though, an average of $74.69 per capita, reflecting that many of the fans were here merely to take in a post-race concert by Ziggy Marley in the infield.

But the track's bottom line held up well, since many of the patrons apparently had a case of the munchies. The unmistakable aroma wafting through the air left them high on more than just life.

"We sold $303,000 worth of junk food in the infield," Joe Harper, Del Mar's chief executive officer, said Monday morning. "Our food and beverage department did $1 million worth of business. I was backstage before the show, and I'll tell you, I was getting a terrible headache. And when I got home, I wanted to eat everything in the house."

None of that food and beverage money goes toward purses, but Harper said it would be used to help fund construction of new barns.

Monzante tops work tab

Monzante, who won the Eddie Read Handicap in his last start, worked six furlongs in 1:12.20 on Monday for trainer Mike Mitchell.

Also working on Polytrack on Monday at Del Mar were Arson Squad (five furlongs from the gate, 58.80 seconds), who is scheduled to make his next start for trainer Bruce Headley in the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien Handicap on Aug. 24, and the mare Intangaroo (five furlongs, 59.80 seconds), a two-time Grade 1 winner for trainer Gary Sherlock who is pointing for the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo Handicap, also on Aug. 24.

Mostacolli Mort (six furlongs, 1:11.60) and Zappa (five furlongs, 1:00.60) both worked in preparation for the major race on the Aug. 24 card, the Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic.