05/31/2002 12:00AM

Strong Del Mar catalog


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The California Thoroughbred Breeders Association has extended invitations to 166 yearling owners for the upcoming Del Mar yearling sale on Aug. 11-12.

According to CTBA executive director Doug Burge, the CTBA expects to catalog 159 yearlings for the sale, which is 10 more than last year's record number.

Earlier this year, the CTBA received nearly 600 nominations and inspected 500 yearlings on pedigree and conformation standards. Invitations went out in early May.

"We basically got the ones we wanted," Burge said.

Burge said 94 percent of the yearlings are California-breds, a figure he said "is the highest I've seen in a while. The group of Cal-bred horses that were nominated continue to improve. Most of the market at Del Mar is for the select Cal-bred."

This summer sale has a high standard. Last year, the two-day sale averaged a record $43,663, an 18 percent increase over the previous record of $36,798, set in 1999.

The soon-to-be-released catalog features California's leading sires as well as California-breds by Kentucky stallions such as Mazel Trick, Thunder Gulch, and Unbridled's Song.

"We're very high on this group," Burge said. "It seems like we say that every year. Like last year, there are a couple of really nice horses, a couple of potential stars."

For the first time, the sale will begin after racing on a Sunday and a Monday. In recent years, the sale was held on Monday and Tuesday evenings.

Changes to Cal Cup

The board of directors of the CTBA is considering changes to the purses and format of the California Cup, which will be held at Oak Tree at Santa Anita on Nov. 2.

The purses for the two juvenile races, run over 1 1/16 miles, may be increased by $25,000 to $150,000, bringing them in line with the divisions of the seven-furlong California Breeders' Champion Stakes, run early in the Santa Anita winter-spring meet.

There is also talk of changing the conditions of one of the starter handicap races by raising the purse to $100,000 and making the race no longer exclusive to claiming horses. One idea under consideration would create a turf stakes for fillies and mares over 1 1/8 miles worth $100,000. Last fall, there was a starter handicap on turf for fillies and mares who had started for a claiming price of $40,000 or less in 2001.

Burge said that discussions will continue this month on any proposed changes.

"There's nothing final there," Burge said. "We have a little surplus in our California-bred race fund."

Burge said the plan is to leave two races on the program for horses that have started for a claiming price.

Sire Stakes thing of past

The California Sires Stakes program ran its final stakes race at Hollywood Park on Friday night. The six-year program is considered obsolete by the CTBA and will be replaced by conventional stakes.

The program required a series of nomination payments to keep a horse eligible, and the horse's sire also had to be nominated to the program.

In recent years, the Oak Tree meeting hosted the first leg of the two-race Sires Stakes program, seven-furlong races for 2-year-olds. This year, the tenative stakes schedule for that meeting includes two $75,000 races over seven furlongs in early October that are designed as preps for the California Cup Juvenile races. The races will have a normal nomination process.

o The American Equine Sales Company 2-year-olds in training sale is Tuesday at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. The one-day sale features a catalog of 61 2-year-olds, most of which are statebreds. The sale begins at 11 a.m.