09/05/2005 12:00AM

Spill-marred race declared no contest

Bob Baffert seeks sole possession of the Del Mar stakes-wins record.

DEL MAR, Calif. - The first race at Del Mar on Sunday was declared no contest after Thatcher, a 3-year-old filly, broke down on the backstretch and bothered four of the other six runners in the one-mile turf race.

According to California Horse Racing Board rules, the stewards reserve the right to cancel a race if interference occurs that affects the majority of the horses. The stewards reached the decision to declare a no-contest after a lengthy inquiry.

"If a majority of the field is compromised, you have to call it a no-contest," steward George Slender said. "It's rare when this happens."

The incident occurred near the end of the backstretch in a race for 3-year-old fillies entered for claiming prices ranging from $55,000 to $62,500.

Thatcher was racing just off the pace on the rail when she suffered an injury to her right foreleg. She was later euthanized. Jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. was taken to Scripps Hospital in La Jolla Hospital, where he was found to have a hairline fracture to a bone in his right lower leg. He was released from the hospital Sunday evening and is expected to return to riding by the start of the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting on Sept. 28.

All of the horses racing alongside or behind Thatcher were affected by the spill. When Thatcher fell, she bumped Ukatabekidding, who was racing to her outside. Of the trailing horses, Road Runner Robyn was bumped severely, Rena de Sonora nearly fell over Thatcher, and Greenhill Hail had to alter course.

There were only three finishers - Unusual Spring, Greenhill Hail, and Lady's Caper. Road Runner Robyn was pulled up in the stretch and was later found to have a ruptured tendon, according to track officials. Ukatabekidding and Rena de Sonora were pulled up and did not appear to be injured.

The track refunded $953,832 in win, place, show, exacta, quinella, trifecta, and daily double bets. Because the race was declared no contest, the $58,000 purse was not distributed. Claims placed on Road Runner Robyn and Rena de Sonora were voided.

Bets on the pick three and place pick all were not refunded. The $1 pick three was paid off on the winners of the second and third races; the $1 place pick all was paid on the one-two finishers in races 2 through 10.

Corey Nakatani, who rode Rena de Sonora, took off his remaining mounts, complaining of muscle spasms in his back.

Injured Tucked Away is euthanized

Tucked Away, the winner of the Grade 2 Clement Hirsch Handicap last month, was euthanized on Sunday after suffering complications of a sesamoid injury suffered on Aug. 31, trainer Paddy Gallagher said.

Tucked Away underwent surgery last Thursday, and appeared to be recovering from the injury when she took a turn for the worse early Sunday. "She wasn't like she was yesterday," Gallagher said on Sunday. "They said it was complications from the operation. She was showing signs of being in pain."

Gallagher said Tucked Away was insured. Owned by Nico Nierenberg, Tucked Away won 5 of 29 starts and $582,956. The Clement Hirsch was her most prestigious victory.

All-sources handle to top $600M

Del Mar is expected to establish a record for all-sources handle during the meeting, which ends on Wednesday, exceeding the previous mark of $580.3 million set last year.

According to chief financial officer Mike Ernst, all-sources handle is expected to exceed $600 million, which was previously perceived as a lofty goal.

"That's something we've always kind of looked at," Ernst said.

Business has been strong throughout the meeting.

The track raised purses 5 percent on Aug. 24, retroactive to the start of the meeting on July 20. Ernst said a second retroactive purse increase of approximately $750,000 is likely later this year after final handle figures are computed.

Del Mar has made retroactive purse increases in the last two years, including a $1 million increase in 2004.

Attendance has not shown the same growth as handle this year. Ernst said figures were flat compared to last year.

"I think we've lost a little bit of [fans] from Orange County and Los Angeles because of gas prices," Ernst said.

Baffert ties Whittingham record

Trainer Bob Baffert won his 74th career stakes at Del Mar on Saturday, equaling the late Charles Whittingham's record for most stakes win by a trainer in track history.

Baffert moved within one of Whittingham when Pussycat Doll won Friday's Torrey Pines Stakes. Saturday, he equaled the mark with Follow the Rainbow in the El Cajon Stakes.

Baffert said he was a bit overwhelmed by the achievement.

"It's not just tying Whittingham, but being in front of Bobby Frankel and Gary Jones, all of those guys that were here year after year," Baffert said. "It's quite an achievement. I would never compare myself to Whittingham."

Baffert had several chances to surpass Whittingham's mark before the meeting ends.

Baffert finished fourth with Da Stoops in Monday's I'm Smokin Stakes, and was to saddle Preachinatthebar in the Windy Sands Handicap later in the day. On Wednesday, his lone starter in a stakes is the outsider Resplendency in the $80,000 CERF Handicap.

"You can't do it without powerful horses and owners," Baffert said. "Our goal has been to play at that level."

Frankel's turf females on deck

Trainer Bobby Frankel is ready for yet another late-season assault on the nation's major stakes for turf females.

Frankel's top-class stable annually is stocked with fillies and mares. This year, Alinghi, Megahertz, Melhor Ainda, and Intercontinental, the winner of the Grade 2 Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap at Del Mar on Saturday, are on Frankel's team for the upcoming major stakes.

Alinghi, the winner of the Ballston Spa Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 29, is bound for the Shadwell Mile against males at Keeneland on Oct. 8.

Megahertz, the multiple stakes winner who was second in the Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park last month, is bound for the Yellow Ribbon Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 1.

Melhor Ainda, the 3-year-old filly who was a troubled third in the Beverly D., will start in the Flower Bowl at Belmont Park on Oct. 1.

Intercontinental will be pointed for a defense of her title of the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes over a mile on turf at Hollywood Park in late November.

Intercontinental's victory in the Grade 2 Palomar marked the seventh stakes victory and 11th win of her 20-race career. Owned by Juddmonte Farms, Intercontinental has earned $1,253,263.

In the Palomar, Intercontinental was rank early but settled under jockey Jerry Bailey on the backstretch. Frankel believes that poor behavior has cost Intercontinental chances for further success.

"She never makes it easy," Frankel said. "If she would have learned how to relax, she could have been a super superstar."

Frankel said Intercontinental will be retired and bred next year. She may return in the $150,000 Las Palmas Handicap at Santa Anita on Nov. 5 as a prep to the Matriarch.

Bro Lo rolls

Odds-on favorite Bro Lo rocketed to the front and kept right on rolling to a 7 1/2-length win while setting a stakes record in the $100,000 I'm Smokin Stakes for 2-year-old California-breds on Monday at Del Mar.

Bro Lo ($2.80), under jockey Patrick Valenzuela, set fractions of 21.50 seconds and 43.68 seconds en route to a final time of 1:08.78 for six furlongs on the fast main track. Moonlite Romance was second, one length in front of Brother Derek, who veered in at the start.

Bro Lo, trained by Doug O'Neill for owners Billie and David Farr, is a gelding by In Excess. He was an eight-length winner of his lone prior start.

Team Espinoza aids hurricane victims

Jockey Victor Espinoza and his agent, Tony Matos, donated all of their purse earnings from Sunday's races to relief efforts for the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Espinoza won the seventh race with Royal Kleven, and he was a fourth in the Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap with Siren Lure.

- additional reporting by Brad Free and Jay Privman