09/26/2005 11:00PM

Shorter meet produces record handle


POMONA, Calif. - Less produced more this fall at Fairplex Park, where a shortened race meet generated record handle for the Los Angeles County Fair meet, which ended Monday. Fairplex trimmed its meet by a day, racing 16 days with Tuesdays off, and the experiment produced all-time high handle of $113.8 million, a daily average of $7.1 million. The total handle was $4.6 million above the previous high over a 17-day meet in 2003.

"Everything seemed to click," said Fairplex equine manager George Bradvica. "We had full fields, a solid jockey colony, and coming off a big Del Mar, we were able to keep the momentum going."

Jockey Martin Pedroza led the standings for the seventh straight year by winning 26 races from 111 mounts, despite a three-day suspension. Pedroza extended his all-time leading Fairplex total to 457 wins.

Yet the colony was more than a one-man show.

Felipe Martinez won 19 races, and David Cohen and Matt Garcia tied for third with 14 wins. Garrett Gomez won 5 of 16, including a meet-high four stakes. Former Fairplex king David Flores won 11 of 43 while riding regularly at Fairplex for the first time since 1998.

Trainer Doug O'Neill became the first Fairplex trainer to top the standings four straight years. He won 13 races from 52 starters, including four stakes. Ted H. West placed second, winning with 9 of 21 starters. Jeff Mullins won seven.

Fields were relatively full despite a new state regulation that disallows claimed horses from leaving the state for 60 days. The rule, designed to protect the state's horse population from "claiming raids" by out-of-state stables, hindered lower-level races at Fairplex. The track routinely offers claiming races in the $5,000 to $6,250 range for horses unable to compete at bottom levels at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park.

Fairplex historically is an outlet for Del Mar droppers, but the 60-day rule stopped some Arizona-based stables from racing at Fairplex, and it slowed claiming activity. The rule will be reviewed by the California Horse Racing Board. Despite the slowdown, Fairplex averaged 8.0 horses per Thoroughbred race. Fields on the five-furlong track are limited to 10 runners, and fields for four-furlong races are limited to eight.

Three track records were set around two turns. Ultimate Summer raced six furlongs in 1:08.62 on Sept. 26; Irish Honor raced seven furlongs in 1:22.25 on Sept. 25; and Jungle Prince raced 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.18 on Sept. 25.

A meet-high $2 win payoff by Cisco's Kite ($166.60) on Sept. 23 led to a 10-cent superfecta that took down the entire pool. The wager was made through Youbet.com and returned $36,374.

* Tialinga ($7.20) won the $59,700 Bangles and Beads on Monday. Tialinga won by a length over her Gary Stute-trained stablemate Awesome Lady. Crowded Room, the 2-1 favorite, finished third. Tialinga was ridden by Omar Figueroa and ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.92.