12/11/2009 1:00AM

Sunday's card just as tough to fill


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - For the second consecutive day, Hollywood Park needed two days to fill entries for a weekend card, and the product offered Sunday is similar to Saturday's program - low on horses.

Sunday's nine-race program drew 57 horses. Saturday's nine-race program drew 59 horses. The number of actual horses that will compete is expected to be lower after late scratches because of illness or injury.

Typically, entries for Sunday's races are completed Thursday, but this week the draw was postponed until lunchtime Friday in an effort to attract more horses. The same scenario occurred Wednesday into Thursday for Saturday's card.

The small number of entries was caused by the threat of rain this weekend, the start of the Santa Anita meeting Dec. 26, where a majority of the horses on the circuit are based, and an alarming drop in available horses throughout Southern California.

"Between the weather, Santa Anita's condition book, and a lack of inventory, it's too many factors," said racing secretary Martin Panza.

Hollywood Park's barn area is slightly more than half-full, according to track officials. It was near capacity three years ago, but a downturn in the economy has forced some owners out of the sport.

Hollywood Park has only four more programs in the fall meeting - Thursday through Dec. 20. The absence of racing this Wednesday was part of a racing schedule approved by the California Horse Racing Board earlier this fall.

Horse inventory has been a problem throughout the year. During the track's spring-summer meeting, the track canceled the final nine Wednesdays of the meeting, from mid-May to mid-July, as well as one Thursday program in April because of insufficient entries. Later in the year, Del Mar and the Los Angeles County Fair at Fairplex Park also reduced the racing dates at their meeting, citing concerns over the availability of horses.

At the current Hollywood Park meeting, the season began with a three-day week, from Nov. 13 to Nov. 15, and conducted five days of racing per week, from Nov. 18 through this week.

Ruling on Rosario expected soon

Stewards Albert Christiansen, Kim Sawyer, and Randy Winick said Friday they will reach a decision "within a week" on a complaint filed against jockey Joel Rosario by the California Horse Racing Board, alleging that he failed to put forth his best effort in a turf race at Del Mar in September.

Rosario rode Cedros to a fourth-place finish in a $67,390 maiden race over a mile on turf, the 11th race Sept. 6.

Cedros, the 4-1 third choice, dueled for the lead for the first half-mile of the race, dropped back to fifth on the turn, and finished fourth, 3 1/2 lengths behind race winner Sterkel.

Rosario could face a fine or suspension if he is found in violation of the rules.

Three days of testimony were conducted over a month, with testimony on behalf of Rosario and final arguments presented on Friday by Roger Licht, representing Rosario, and Kenneth Jones, representing the racing board.

Licht, a former chairman of the racing board, deemed the allegations against Rosario to be "spurious" and described the racing board's investigation as "flimsy and inadequate."

"It needs to be stopped and a message sent to the California Horse Racing Board that these investigations will not be tolerated," Licht said.

Licht had previously called for a dismissal of the case, rejected by the stewards, citing the absence of proof that Rosario failed to put forth his best effort.

In Friday's closing argument, Licht argued that the racing board's investigation was flawed because written reports in the case failed to include testimony from Rosario and failed to include written testimony from former jockey and safety steward Luis Juauregui, who was presented as an expert witness by racing board investigators.

Jones, a deputy attorney general, focused part of his closing arguments on Rosario's lack of a use of a whip in the stretch.

"I'm not encouraging flogging a horse," Jones said. "If you look at his racing style that day, it includes aggressive rides.

"Do we know we he did that?" he said in reference to a lack of whip use. "We can't begin to second-guess the motivation. We know it's difficult to prove a lack of best effort, but we have to try.

"This case is not all that different from Monday morning quarterbacking," he said.

Friday's hearing included testimony from trainer Jerry Hollendorfer; his assistant Dan Ward; Rosario; and his agent, Vic Stauffer.