08/23/2006 11:00PM

Sinister Minister targeting El Cajon

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Sinister Minister, an easy winner of the Blue Grass Stakes in April and the 16th-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, is expected to return from a four-month layoff in the $100,000 El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar on Sept. 2, trainer Bob Baffert said.

The El Cajon, run at a mile on the main track, is developing into a promising race. The race is also a target for Brother Derek, who won the Santa Anita Derby and was fourth in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Brother Derek has not started since the Preakness on May 20.

Cindago, unraced since beating maidens at Santa Anita last December, is also under consideration for the El Cajon.

Sinister Minister has won 2 of 6 starts and $503,880. Sinister Minister won his first stakes in the Blue Grass, scoring by 12 3/4 lengths.

Baffert said that Sinister Minister battled a foot abscess during the Kentucky Derby and popped a splint bone while training earlier this summer at Santa Anita. Those problems have kept Sinister Minister from racing.

Sinister Minister has been working regularly. On Aug. 19, he worked seven furlongs in 1:23.80.

"I put a tough work in him the other day," Baffert said, referring to that work.

Baffert said that Sinister Minister has been eager in recent exercises, even when he has worked without blinkers. "He won't rate," Baffert said.

Baffert said he will have several nominees for the El Cajon, including Da Stoops, second in the Real Good Deal Stakes here Aug. 11, and Point Determined, who finished third in the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park last month.

Two more horses euthanized

The number of horses euthanized at Del Mar this summer because of injuries while racing or training has risen to 16.

On Tuesday, Ojai Summer was euthanized after suffering a hock injury in Monday's fourth race, trainer Lewis Cenicola said. On Wednesday, Kedington was euthanized after sustaining an ankle injury during a workout, trainer Rafael Becerra said.

Cenicola said an effort was made to save Ojai Summer overnight on Monday before she was put down. A 3-year-old, she was making her career debut in a sprint for maiden claimers and finished last.

Kedington won 7 of 32 starts and $269,312. A 7-year-old gelding, Kedington had not started since finishing fifth in a $20,000 claimer at Santa Anita last March. He was second in the $250,000 California Cup Classic in 2003. In recent months, Kedington had been trained by Doug O'Neill and Becerra, who resumed training Kedington last month.

Kedington was three furlongs into a workout when the injury occurred, Becerra said.

Injuries have plagued this meeting since it opened on July 19. On July 22, track officials and horsemen met to discuss the injuries that occurred in the first week. At the meeting, officials said that track superintendent Steve Wood would be adding sand to the track regularly. The application of sand has continued, according to director of racing Tom Robbins.

"He's been doing that on a nightly basis," Robbins said.

Since the meeting opened, Robbins said that approximately 100 horses have been shipped out of the barn area. The stable area has a capacity of 2,200.

Robbins said the injuries are a major concern to track officials.

"We all know this is the worst thing that can happen," Robbins said. "We all know that there are many contributing factors."

Lava Man had lowest CO2 level

Lava Man, the impressive winner of the Pacific Classic at Del Mar last weekend, had the lowest total carbon dioxide level of the race's eight starters, according to a statement released Wednesday by California Horse Racing Board chairman Richard Shapiro.

All horses who run in California are tested for total carbon dioxide levels. Carbon dioxide testing is meant to reveal the administration of a mixture of baking soda and electrolytes, which many believe staves off fatigue. A finding in excess of 37 millimoles per liter of plasma is considered in excess of permitted levels.

In his statement, Shapiro wrote, "In the Pacific Classic, all eight horses were tested for total carbon dioxide, or bicarbonate levels, and all eight tested below 35 millimoles - well within the legal limit. Of the eight, the horse testing with the lowest level was Lava Man."

The statement did not provide details on specific test results. It later praised O'Neill's accomplishments with Lava Man, who is unbeaten in six stakes this year.

The statement was issued to refute critical comments made by a rival trainer against O'Neill.

In May at Hollywood Park, O'Neill had a horse test in excess of the permitted level of total carbon dioxide. As a result of that finding, O'Neill's starters were based in a prerace detention barn for 24 hours before their starts for a period of 30 days from mid-June to mid-July.

O'Neill faces possible sanctions from the CHRB regarding that test finding.