08/30/2001 11:00PM

Solana a good fit for Top of Our Game


DEL MAR, Calif. - The Del Mar stakes schedule is not a perfect fit for Top of Our Game, who is making her third start of the meeting in Sunday's $125,000 Solana Beach Handicap. But the long-term plans of Top of Our Game's rival may work to her advantage.

Coming off a victory in an allowance race, Top of Our Game is a leading contender in the Solana Beach, a stakes for California-bred fillies and mares. But if Lazy Slusan, the multiple Grade 1 winner, does not start, which trainer John Dolan hinted on Friday, Top of Our Game will go favored in the one-mile turf race, which has drawn seven entrants.

Trained by Carla Gaines, Top of Our Game is seeking her second stakes win. She won a weak running of the California Sires Stakes at Hollywood Park last year.

The allowance win on Aug. 17 was her second win of 2001, coming three months after a victory in a similar race at Hollywood Park in late May.

"I didn't want to run her back in two weeks, but it's a Cal-bred race and it's a short meet," Gaines said.

Lazy Slusan may pass in favor of richer races in coming weeks. Despite recent losses in the Vanity and Delaware handicaps, Dolan is pointing Lazy Slusan for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff at Belmont Park on Oct. 27.

In late May, the 6-year-old Lazy Slusan was considered one of the top older mares in the U.S., having won two Grade 1 stakes - the Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita and the Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park. But a second to Gourmet Girl in the Vanity Handicap and a third in the Delaware Handicap, lowered her status in the national standings.

As of Friday, the Solana Beach Handicap seemed to be at the bottom of Dolan's list. He was also considering two races at Belmont Park - the $300,000 Ruffian Handicap on Sept. 15 and the $750,000 Beldame Stakes on Oct. 6 - and two races in Kentucky - the $200,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup Stakes on Sept. 22 and the $500,000 Spinster Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 7.

"She's back where I want her, but I'm worried about the turf and running for only $125,000," Dolan said. "I think it's 50-50 that I'll run. I was almost hesitant to enter."

Should Lazy Slusan skip Sunday's race, Dolan said that he wait and see where rival fillies and mares are starting before choosing a prep race.

"There aren't enough good mares to go around," he said. "Gourmet Girl is going in the Ruffian and that's the one I fear."

Officer may have only three foes in Futurity

Officer, the top 2-year-old in California, will not face many opponents in Wednesday's $250,000 Del Mar Futurity, the closing-day feature at this meeting.

As of Friday, a field of four was likely including Megatron, who finished second to Officer in the Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 15, and recent maiden winners Kamsack and Historic Speech.

Essence of Dubai, who was last of three in the Best Pal Stakes will not start, according to trainer Eoin Harty. The trainer of Godolphin Racing's 2-year-old division in the United States, Harty said he will not have a starter in the Grade 2 Futurity, which is run over seven furlongs.

"Those are four legit horses in there," he said.

Burnt Ember, a two-length maiden winner at Saratoga on Aug. 25 who is trained by Harty, will be pointed for the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway Park on Sept. 22.

With a small field, it is unclear what betting Del Mar will hold on the Futurity. Place betting is likely to be offered even though the track could be exposed to a minus pool since Office will be a heavy favorite.

In recent weeks, a series of significant place and show bets on mules and Appaloosas at the northern California fairs have created minus pools that Joe Harper, Del Mar's president, said have totaled $500,000.

As a result, Del Mar chose not to offer betting of any sort on a handicap for mules at the Sacramento fair last weekend. The race was won by Black Ruby, a mule who has been a dominating factor at county fairs in Nevada and California in recent years and was as a heavy favorite.

Hollywood renovation done early

Hollywood Park announced earlier this week that a renovation of the barn area has been completed in advance of the reopening of the stable area this weekend. The stable area had been shut since the spring-summer meeting ended in late July for repairs.

The improvements included the repaving of two main roads in the barn area, a new drainage system; and the installation of rubber horse paths leading to and from the main track and training track.

In addition, barn ceilings were painted, tack room and living quarters were wired for cable television, trees and shrubs were planted through the barn area, and a waste management system was installed to keep barn refuse off roads and horse paths.

Dig For It points for Japan Cup Dirt

Dig For It, who finished third at 44-1 in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 19, is being pointed for the $2.075 million Japan Cup Dirt at Tokyo Racecourse on Nov. 24.

Dig For It will have a prep in advance of the race, according to trainer Bruce Headley, possibly the Goodwood Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 7.

Earlier this year, Dig For It was third in the Grade 2 Bel Air Handicap and set a track record of 1:54.85 for 1 3/16 miles at Hollywood Park. This is the second year of the Japan Cup Dirt, run over about 1 5/16 miles. Last year, the California-based Lord Sterling finished third.

The Headley-trained Kona Gold, the top sprinter of 2000 who is unbeaten in his last seven starts, worked five furlongs in 57 seconds on Friday. He is being pointed for the Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 6 or the Forest Hills Handicap at Belmont Park on Oct. 7.