07/17/2007 12:00AM

Synthetic first-timers complicate feature


DEL MAR, Calif. - The second day of Del Mar's meet is the calm after the storm. Opening day Wednesday is for poseurs who want to see, be seen, bet $2 to show, and sip $10 cosmos while standing shoulder to shoulder in the turf club with like-minded swells. Thursday is for the hard core, with about one-third the crowd, room to breathe, and most of the silicone mixed into the track surface, not walking around the turf club.

It's the day that the 43-day season settles into a nice rhythm, but, as on opening day, the challenge from the old Del Mar will be figuring out who will take to the new Polytrack surface. Trainer Bobby Frankel has entered a pair of runners, Hello Sunday and To Sender, in Thursday's feature race, and he is hoping that both will perk up over the synthetic surface.

A dozen were entered in Thursday's seventh race, a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming event with a purse of $75,000, but fewer than that will run. Trainer Bob Baffert, who entered C'Mon Tiger and Wanna Runner, said C'Mon Tiger would be scratched and run instead in the San Diego Handicap on Saturday. And trainer Sean McCarthy said he was "taking a serious look" at the San Diego for Salty Humor, so he may be scratched from Thursday's race, too.

Hello Sunday has made all 14 of his starts on turf. He drew post 11 in the original field of 12.

"He's got a bad post," Frankel said Tuesday morning. "There's no other place to run him, so let's see how he handles the Polytrack."

Hello Sunday is coupled with Cimyla, who is trained by Ben Cecil. Both horses are owned by Gary Tanaka.

To Sender has not raced since January, when he finished last of four in the Palos Verdes Handicap at Santa Anita in his first race on dirt.

"I wanted to run him at the end of Hollywood Park, but I don't think I would have learned anything running him on that surface," Frankel said. "The Cushion Track got all worn out."

Of those with experience on a synthetic surface, Mr. Katz has the best recent form. He beat a softer allowance field by three lengths at Hollywood Park in his last start June 15.

The front-running Railroad is back at a distance much more to his liking, but he never has raced on a synthetic surface.

Cusoon won four races on Polytrack in Great Britain, but flopped on Cushion Track in his first United States start at Hollywood Park last month.

Sinners N Saints was third against a similar field at Hollywood Park in his last start.