11/18/2005 12:00AM

Rock Hard Ten retired

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Trainer Richard Mandella says Rock Hard Ten has cartilage damage in his left foreleg.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Rock Hard Ten, the top handicap horse in California this year, has been retired to stud after arthroscopic surgery conducted on Thursday revealed cartilage damage near the sesamoids of his left foreleg, trainer Richard Mandella said.

"It's a sad day, believe me," Mandella said Friday morning.

Owned by Mercedes Stable and Madeleine Pickens, the 4-year-old won 7 of 11 starts and $1,870,380. He won five stakes - the Grade 2 Swaps Breeders' Cup Stakes and Grade 1 Malibu in 2004, and the Grade 2 Strub Stakes, Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, and Grade 2 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap this year.

At 3, he finished second to Smarty Jones in the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes.

The Goodwood was Rock Hard Ten's final start. He was being prepared for a start in the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Belmont Park on Oct. 29 when he was forced out of the race with a minor foot injury. A victory in the BC Classic would have given Rock Hard Ten support for Horse of the Year.

After being shipped back to California in late October, Rock Hard Ten was put through a series of physical tests to determine whether he should remain in training for 2006 or be sent to stud. During those tests, which included a nuclear scan procedure and X-rays, concern was expressed about the condition of his left foreleg, which led to the arthroscopic surgery.

"We wanted to see if there was any ligament damage," Mandella said. "At the bottom of the sesamoid, there was a wearing spot with cartilage damage."

After the diagnosis was reached, Mandella and Ernie Moody of Mercedes Stable decided to retire Rock Hard Ten.

"We didn't think we could get a full level of competition, like we did this year," Mandella said. "The bottom line is he carved himself quite a mark with the wins in the Malibu and the Big Cap, and he came back so good in the Goodwood. We didn't think we could have as solid of a year."

Mandella said that Moody held preliminary discussions with stallion farms earlier this year, but that no deal has been finalized. "He will pursue the interests that were shown all year," Mandella said.

Rock Hard Ten raced for two seasons. He was trained by Jason Orman as a 3-year-old before Moody and Pickens moved Rock Hard Ten to Mandella in the fall of 2004.

For Mandella, who has been inducted in the Hall of Fame largely because of his work with older horses, there was hope that Rock Hard Ten could be a Horse of the Year candidate again in 2006.

"We've had horses here that have spent their whole careers or a lot of years here, but for him to be here only a year, we got pretty attached," Mandella said.

Fumes make Nakatani ill

Jockey Corey Nakatani was excused from his last six mounts following the second race on Thursday after he said he was overwhelmed by chemical fumes inhaled in the jockeys' room sweat box.

Nakatani rode his first mount, Highdollargirl, to a runner-up finish in the second race, but said that after the race "I couldn't catch my breath or get any air. I thought the best thing to do was to take the rest of the day off. My eyes were itchy and I couldn't see."

Nakatani rode at 122 pounds on Thursday. He was initially announced at 124 pounds, but that was amended to 122 pounds after Nakatani lost two pounds in the sweat box. Nakatani said he actually weighed 116.1 pounds and that the difference included his tack and other equipment that counts against a rider's weight.

Three of the seven horses he was scheduled to ride on Thursday were given assignments of 121 or less.

Nakatani said he has been unable to reduce in the jockeys' room sweat box in recent days after sustaining a cut on his head when he fell in the shower on Nov. 11. He said he was given antibiotics and advised by doctors not to spend time in the sweat box.

Nakatani said that on Thursday a chemical, which he thought was chlorine, had been used in the sweat box as a disinfectant.

Through Thursday, Nakatani was second in the standings at the Hollywood Park meeting with six wins, three behind Garrett Gomez.

Track seeks to boost attendance

Hollywood Park will offer free admission to members of the Golden State Rewards Network on two Fridays, Dec. 2 and Dec. 16, as a way to boost sagging weekday attendance.

A similar promotion was offered at Santa Anita during the Oak Tree meeting this fall when free admission, track programs, and issues of Daily Racing Form were given to members of that track's Thoroughbreds frequent customer program. The Golden State Rewards Network is a similar program in that it awards frequent customers with awards and is a way for racing executives to track betting habits.

Through Thursday, the seventh day of the 27-day fall meeting, business figures trailed the corresponding 36-day meeting in 2004. According to figures released to the media, the average ontrack attendance has fallen 19 percent, to 5,136. Opening day on Nov. 9 was especially hard hit because of wet weather, drawing only 3,698 compared with 4,903 in 2004.

Handle figures have not fallen as substantially. Through Thursday, ontrack average handle was $1,110,748, a decline of 5 percent. The all-sources average handle of $7,202,159 was down 5 percent.

Those figures are expected to slide further on Thanksgiving weekend because the Autumn Turf Festival scheduled for Friday through Sunday has been canceled and replaced by two $100,000 stakes for 2-year-olds on Saturday and Sunday.

The absence of the six-race Turf Festival will hurt handle since those races proved to be attractive to bettors in recent years.