04/12/2004 12:00AM

Security camera dilemma

Email

ARCADIA, Calif. - In a meeting here Saturday, an adhoc committee of racing officials, owners, and trainers continued discussions on finding a cost-effective way to install surveillance cameras in backstretch barns at Southern California tracks.

Backstretch surveillance cameras as a way to increase security has been at the forefront of the committee's discussions in recent meetings. The group has met monthly since last winter to find ways to eliminate any perception of backstretch cheating.

Saturday, Santa Anita president Jack McDaniel made a presentation displaying a four-camera surveillance system that was installed last month on a voluntary basis in trainer Richard Mandella's stable. Santa Anita installed the cameras for $5,600 to provide the committee with an example of the system's workings.

One camera was directed into a stall, one was directed to an outdoor walking ring, and two covered a shed row. The pictures could be displayed simultaneously on one screen, allowing surveillance of several aspects of the barn.

The cost included cameras and installation, and the pictures can be viewed from the Internet. But the system is considered too expensive for a stable-area-wide installation, leading officials with California Thoroughbred Trainers and the Thoroughbred Owners of California to seek alternative video surveillance systems that range from $120 to $300 for four-camera systems.

The less-expensive systems will be installed in two stables in coming weeks, allowing committee members to review all three simultaneously at Hollywood Park, beginning May 8.

While the cameras are not considered perfect - they do not cover every bit of ground in a stable - officials consider them a worthwhile venture to provide deterrence.

"The best we can do is as complete a job as possible," said Ed Halpern, the executive director of the CTT. "It has its limitations, but the more you do, the more people you're going to deter. But you can't stop someone if they're determined to do something."

It was not clear how the surveillance cameras would be funded.

"The question is what level of deterrence can we get with the budget we have?" said Drew Couto of the TOC.

The committee first met in late December. In recent months, the group has discussed a wide range of ideas, including a race-day detention barn, detention stalls in each barn on race days, and security cameras.

The detention barn idea is opposed by horsemen, but the creation of detentions stalls in each barn that can be supervised by surveillance cameras was further discussed on Saturday. Some trainers like that idea because they would be able to leave their horses in their own barn on race days, even if they have to be moved to different stalls.

So far, the committee's actions have resulted in little change, aside from enhanced backstretch presence of California Horse Racing Board personnel. The lack of action has frustrated some members.

"We're four or five months along and we haven't made any dramatic changes," said Ingrid Fermin, a steward at Del Mar and Santa Anita. "We're not doing the things we said we're going to do."

The committee also discussed ways to provide funding for security personnel to be present at the stables of Grade 1 starters on race days. During the current Santa Anita meeting, outside security firms have been present at the stables of those runners on race days.

The idea of adding $50 to the nomination fee of such races to finance the presence of security personnel is opposed by the TOC, according to Couto.

"We want to help solve the problem but the solution cannot always be to have the owners write a check," Couto said. "It's not fair to owners."

San Juan field unsettled

The presence of the $400,000 Jim Murray Handicap at Hollywood Park on May 8 may cost Sunday's $250,000 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap a few starters.

The Jim Murray is run over 1 1/2 miles on turf, compared to the about 1 3/4 miles on turf of the historic San Juan Capistrano.

Ballingarry, one of three horses that share top weight of 117 pounds in the San Juan Capistrano, will start in the Jim Murray. The same race is being considered for Meteor Storm, the winner of the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf on March 20. Meteor Storm was assigned 116 pounds for the San Juan Capistrano.

Aimee Dollase, assistant trainer to her father, Wally, said a decision will be made later this week regarding Meteor's Storm's plans. "The horse is training fine," she said.

Santa Anita officials invited 18 horses to the San Juan Capistrano. The list of candidates includes All the Boys, Gassan Royal, Gene de Campaeo, Gigli, Pellegrino, Ringaskiddy, Special Matter, and White Buck.

Trainer Bobby Frankel has five nominees, including Gassan Royal, Gigli, and Diplomatic Bag, the winner of the Arcadia Handicap April 3. He said his plans would be finalized later in the week.

The San Juan Capistrano will not include Labirinto, who finished second in the San Luis Rey Handicap. He is out with an injury, according to trainer Leonard Powell. "We'll see him next year," Powell said.

Meridiana, the winner of the Orchid Handicap at Gulfstream Park on March 21, is a candidate for Saturday's $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap for fillies and mares over 1 1/4 miles on turf. She also holds an invitation to the San Juan Capistrano.

The San Juan Capistrano is the top race on the final week of the Santa Anita meeting. Hollywood Park opens its spring-summer meeting on April 21.

Seven hit big pick six

Sunday's pick six, which began with a two-day carryover of $578,231, returned $214,463 to seven ticketholders.

The sequence winners were Tita Emerald ($36.20), Ashoka ($13.20), Tizakitty ($6.20), Imgunabeinpictures ($10.40), Ticker Tape ($11.40), and Hidden Image ($7.20). Tizakitty was the only winning favorite.

Bettors added $1,651,950 to the pool on Sunday, a modest sum for a two-day carryover.

Business was hurt by Sunday's Easter holiday, which kept many bettors away from the races.

Sunday's card drew a small ontrack crowd of 8,842. The all-sources handle was $9,784,528, a weak figure for a Sunday.

Bullet work by Silent Sighs

A.P. Adventure and Silent Sighs, two leading California-based contenders for the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on April 30, worked on Saturday.

Silent Sighs worked six furlongs in 1:12, which equaled the fastest of 12 recorded works at the distance.

"She worked unbelievably," trainer Julio Canani said. "She was breezing. She broke off five or six lengths behind and caught them at the wire."

Silent Sighs has not started since winning the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks on March 13. She finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of Halfbridled, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2003, with A.P. Adventure in third.

At Hollywood Park, A.P. Adventure worked six furlongs in 1:12.80 on Saturday. Trained by Wally Dollase, she won the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita in February.

Aimee Dollase timed A.P. Adventure in 1:12.60.

"It was a matter of keeping her in shape," she said. "She did what she needed to do."

Stewards fine Krigger

Jockey Kevin Krigger was fined $300 by track stewards on Sunday for whipping Whatever Jim when the gelding was last in the stretch of a $16,000 claiming sprint last Thursday.

The stewards cited Krigger for striking Whatever Jim when he was "clearly out of [the] race."

Whatever Jim finished 14 lengths behind race winner Further, and 1 1/2 lengths behind Piazzola, the fifth-place finisher and the last horse to earn part of the $20,000 purse.