07/29/2005 12:00AM

Surf Cat's people thinking Haskell


DEL MAR, Calif. - Surf Cat, the winner of the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park on July 9, may be sent to the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 7 in wake of the defection earlier this week of top 3-year-old Afleet Alex.

Trainer Bruce Headley said a decision will be made in coming days on whether to send Surf Cat to Monmouth or leave him at Del Mar for the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 21.

"We're thinking very strongly of it," Headley said of the Haskell. "It lightened up the load when Alex came out."

Headley said there are positive and negative factors of a trip to New Jersey.

"It's very interesting because it's a major race for 3-year-olds and I don't have to run against older horses," he said. "But it is a long way to travel. The bad part is you have to leave Del Mar."

Owned by Headley's wife, Aase, and Marsha Naify, Surf Cat has won 3 of 6 starts and $290,020. Surf Cat won his first stakes in the Swaps, attending the pace to the final turn before drawing off to win by five lengths.

Regardless of which race is chosen, Surf Cat is scheduled to have a workout next Wednesday, which will keep him on target for an August start, Headley said. Surf Cat would ship to New Jersey on Thursday, if he goes.

Indian Ocean is injured and retired

Indian Ocean, who beat Surf Cat in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 18, has been retired after suffering a tendon injury, trainer Jay Robbins said.

The injury was detected after Indian Ocean completed a gallop on Thursday, Robbins said.

Owned by Mercedes Stable, Indian Ocean made his final start in the Swaps Stakes on July 9, finishing a disappointing third, six lengths behind Surf Cat.

By Stormy Atlantic, Indian Ocean won 3 of 5 starts and $176,460. The Affirmed Handicap was his stakes debut.

Robbins said no decision has been made on where the colt will go to stud. "He might stay in California or he might go to Florida," Robbins said.

Coronado's Pride sets course record

The Del Mar turf course, which has produced fast times since the meeting began on July 20, produced a course record on Wednesday.

Coronado's Pride, a $50,000 claimer, ran 1 1/16 miles on turf in 1:39.76, shaving 0.08 second off the previous record set by Allover in 2003.

Of the five distances contested on turf here, all records have been set since 2003.

There was nearly a course record on Thursday, too, when Deputy Lad ran 1 3/8 miles in 2:12.17, only a tenth of a second slower than Crazy Ensign's 2003 record.

Over the winter, Del Mar installed a type of Bermuda grass on its turf course developed by golf champion Greg Norman.

Rock Hard Ten works a second time

Rock Hard Ten, who has not started since winning the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap in March, breezed a half-mile in 50.20 seconds on Friday.

Body soreness kept Rock Hard Ten from starting at Hollywood Park earlier this year. Friday's workout was the 4-year-old's second in a week, and it left trainer Richard Mandella optimistic that the colt will be ready for the fall. He is even considering a start at this meeting in a race such as the $350,000 Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap over a mile on turf on Sept. 4.

"If he turns it on, that's a possibility," Mandella said, referring to Rock Hard Ten's training. "I'm not necessarily looking to do that. I want him ready for the Breeders' Cup."

Mandella's main goals for Rock Hard Ten remain the Breeders' Cup Classic at Belmont Park on Oct. 29 with an expected prep race in the $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 1.

Mandella said he timed the final quarter- mile of Rock Hard Ten's breeze on Friday in "24 [seconds] and change."

Owned by Mercedes Stable and Madeleine Paulson, Rock Hard Ten, 4, has won 6 of 10 starts and $1,570,380.

Congrats gearing up for Pacific Classic

Congrats, who finished second in the Santa Anita Handicap and third in the Hollywood Gold Cup on July 9, will be Mandella's hope in the Pacific Classic.

Friday, Congrats breezed six furlongs in 1:14.20. The loss in the Hollywood Gold Cup, where Congrats finished 9 3/4 lengths behind Lava Man, was a disappointment to Mandella.

Congrats was fifth in the $6 million Dubai World Cup in March and returned to finish second in the Ack Ack Handicap for sprinters on June 11.

"I might have put too much speed in him," Mandella said, reflecting on the Ack Ack.

The Pacific Classic field is expected to include Lava Man as well as Choctaw Nation and Ace Blue, the first and second-place finishers of the San Diego Handicap on July 24.

Ace Blue's runner-up finish was a reversal of his seventh-place finish in the Grade 2 Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park on June 18, his first start for owners Sid and Jenny Craig and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

Air Ace to debut in strong field Sunday

A $51,000 maiden special weight race over 5 1/2 furlongs on Sunday marks the career debut of Air Ace, a promising Forest Camp colt trained by Bob Baffert.

The field of 10 has drawn a strong cast, including the well-regarded first-time starters A.P. Xcellent and Dixie Banker, as well as Gold Maker, who finished third in a maiden race at Hollywood Park on July 17.

Baffert has three entrants - Air Ace, Gold Maker, and Rising Rate - but said that Rising Rate might be withdrawn.

Baffert spoke highly of Air Ace, who is owned by Stetston Land and Cattle and was purchased for $425,000 at the Ocala Breeders Sale of 2-year-olds in-training in February.

"Air Ace is a very talented horse, a really good horse," he said.

Dixie Banker, a homebred of Gerald Ford's Diamond A Racing, "might want to go a little further," Mandella said.

A.P. Xcellent is trained by Eoin Harty. Owned by Stan Fulton, A.P. Xcellent was purchased for $750,000 at the 2004 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Problems delay multi-race alternate picks

California bettors will not be able to use alternate selections in multi-race win bets such as the pick six until Wednesday at the earliest.

According to Del Mar director of mutuels Bill Navarro, Scientific Games, Inc., the track's tote provider, has encountered software problems that has delayed installation. Navarro said the next tests will be conducted on Tuesday, Del Mar's only dark day. If those tests are successful, the alternate selections could begin on Wednesday.

Officials with Scientific Games told the California Horse Racing Board's parimutuel committee in April that the alternate selections would be in place by Del Mar's opening day, July 20.

The alternate provision was withdrawn from the betting menu after the scandal surrounding the Breeders' Cup pick six at Arlington Park in 2002.

John suspended three days

Jockey Kerwin John has been suspended for three racing days from Monday through Thursday for his ride aboard Lineout in the sixth race on Wednesday.

Lineout was disqualified from third to fourth after causing interference. John was cited for failing to maintain a straight course.