03/02/2009 1:00AM

Tough to fill that fifth day of racing


ALBANY, Calif. - After two months of four-day weeks, racing returns to five-day weeks at Golden Gate beginning Wednesday. As the racing opportunities expand, the horse population is beginning to shrink.

Horses based in Washington and British Columbia are beginning to return home for their summer meetings, although some trainers are leaving a few horses at Golden Gate Fields.

Wednesday's card attracted 55 horses for eight races. Thursday's card has 49 entries. The biggest field each day is eight. Friday's card has only 48 entrants and no superfectas, which require a field of eight.

"There's definitely an issue with horse population," Golden Gate Fields general manager Robert Hartman said. "We even saw it with the four-day week."

One problem is that there are relatively few places to keep horses. Northern California is limited to roughly 2,000 stalls at Golden Gate Fields and Pleasanton. The loss of Bay Meadows eliminated 700 to 800 additional stalls, which, Hartman says, "no question is affecting us."

In Southern California, more than twice as many stalls are available, Hartman said.

Some help could be on the way with the opening of the turf course. Right now, the only surface available for racing is the Tapeta main track.

"The end of the month will mark the return of our turf course," Hartman said. "Although trainers have found that turf runners seem to do well on Tapeta, there is still a group of horses that is waiting for turf racing.

"We're hoping we'll get some horses from Arizona as well."

Hartman said that another group of runners can make an impact on the entries.

"We're starting to get more horses shipping north from Southern California looking for softer spots," he said. "For some reason, we don't get that in January. I think trainers down there want to give their horses a shot or two at Santa Anita because the purses are higher. In January or February, we don't get that influx of horses from the south."

Of the 152 entries for the first three days of the week, 12 horses, including nine maidens, made their previous start in Southern California. Another eight runners are making their second start at Golden Gate after running down south.

And 2-year-olds will begin to make their debuts this spring as well.

Hartman said the track's racing schedule could see some changes next meet.

"This is the first year a track has had this many days," Hartman said of the Golden Gate Fields meeting, which essentially began last September. "It is something of an experiment, and we may want to try to do some things differently next year."

Charlie's Moment goes on with it

It was no surprise that Charlie's Moment won the $50,000 King Glorious on Saturday. The surprise may have been that he won in wire-to-wire style, getting the best of Lordgivemealift early and then pulling clear in the stretch.

Jockey Danny Sorenson said that trainer Walther Solis told him not to take Charlie's Moment back if he broke well. Solis believed Charlie's Moment's recent route tries would have him plenty fit to cover the six furlongs of the King Glorious, and he was proven correct.

Previously undefeated Mr. Monkey Jones ran second in the sprint for 3-year-olds, with the stakes-winning filly Ultra Blend finishing third. Both had excuses.

Mr. Monkey Jones got off a step slowly from the rail, and then lost ground early when a couple of rivals began to duck in on him.

Trainer Bob Hess said he would consider a route and turf for Mr. Monkey Jones.

Trainer Steve Sherman said he was disappointed in the ride Ultra Blend got. Jockey Leslie Mawing seemed to take hold of the usually free-running filly early.

"She showed some guts in the lane and in another jump would have been second," he said.

He has the Grade 3 Santa Paula at 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita on March 29 penciled in for Ultra Blend's next start.

Local stakes horses heading east

Following a seven-furlong work in 1:28.40 at Golden Gate on Sunday under regular rider Alex Bisono, Merus Miami will be pointed to the Grade 3, $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby on March 14, according to trainer O.J. Jauregui. The race is 1 1/16 miles.

Trainer Greg Gilchrist will send Wild Promises and Victorina to Florida this weekend for stakes at Gulfstream. Wild Promises will run in the Grade 3, $100,000 Honey Fox at one mile on the turf, while Victorina will run in Sunday's $75,000 Ocala Stakes at one mile on the main track.

Jerry Hollendorfer will send out Blue Exit in search of the trainer's second straight Santa Anita Derby win. He won last year with Heatseeker.

* Saturday will have an early 12:15 p.m. post.