04/06/2009 11:00PM

Two possibilities for Carlsbad


ARCADIA, Calif. - Carlsbad, the undefeated 3-year-old filly and four-time stakes winner, is likely to start in a $100,000 sprint stakes in early May. The venue remained uncertain as of Tuesday.

Trainer Jeff Mullins said Carlsbad is a candidate for two Grade 3 races - the Eight Belles Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 2 or the Railbird Stakes over seven furlongs at Hollywood Park on May 9.

Mullins said that Carlsbad was nominated to the Eight Belles in case he wants to take her with him to Churchill Downs. He also trains I Want Revenge, the winner of the Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct last Saturday, who will be a leading contender for the Kentucky Derby on May 2.

Dave Williams, owner-breeder Dennis Weir's farm manager, said the Kentucky Oaks over 1 1/8 miles at Churchill Downs on May 1 is not an option for Carlsbad.

"I don't think at this time we want to be more aggressive," he said.

Carlsbad has earned $154,126. She won three stakes at Turf Paradise from late November to late February for trainer Kevin Lewis and her California debut for Mullins in the Grade 3 Santa Paula Stakes at Santa Anita on March 29. She has won her five starts by a combined 54 lengths.

'Pioneer' will tune up in Kentucky

Santa Anita Derby winner Pioneerof the Nile is expected to leave Santa Anita and spend the second half of April at Churchill Downs, preparing for the Kentucky Derby, trainer Bob Baffert said.

Baffert said that Pioneerof the Nile's win in the Santa Anita Derby last Saturday "didn't take much out of him."

"I want to keep him healthy," he said. "All the hard work is done."

Baffert said Pioneerof the Nile will breeze at Churchill Downs a few times. The details of the workouts, such as distances and dates, will be determined later.

"I've got a schedule in my head," he said. "I'll know more when I see him over that track and how he reacts to that. You've got to work around weather and track surface, there are lot of little things. Everybody is good in the Pioneer camp."

Mixed trends at meet

Santa Anita enters the final two weeks of its winter-spring meeting with mixed business returns, according to track president Ron Charles.

After a strong Santa Anita Derby program last Saturday, Charles said that ontrack attendance has increased about 2 to 3 percent compared with last year, while ontrack handle is down the same margin.

The Santa Anita Derby program drew an announced crowd of 50,915, though some of those people took advantage of a free T-shirt offer to spin through the turnstiles more than once. Still, the attendance was approximately 600 fans higher than the corresponding day in 2008.

The all-sources handle, including simulcasting and account wagering, was $20,855,055.

"I thought it was a spectacular day, a fine day," Charles said. "We need to have more of those type of days to get people back."

One promotion that has helped to increase ontrack attendance at the meeting is free general admission on Fridays. Crowds have been noticeably larger on Fridays in recent weeks, reaching approximately 6,000 as opposed to 3,500 or 4,000 in the past.

Mutuel handle has not been as strong. Charles said betting at simulcast facilities in Southern California is down 14 to 15 percent, while account wagering through telephone and Internet sources has shown an increase of 1 to 2 percent.

He said the drop in wagering may lead to a purse overpayment at the conclusion of the meeting on Aprilo19, but that two strong weekends of business could erase that concern.

"We've been trending up in the last three or four weeks and we'd like to say that we'd be even," he said.

Sibling of Nashoba's Key debuts

Nashoba Express, a 3-year-old half-brother to the late millionaire Nashoba's Key, makes his debut in a one-mile turf race for maidens on Thursday. The little brother is showing hints of promise, trainer Carla Gaines said.

Owned by breeder Warren Williamson, Nashoba Express is by In Excess and has worked steadily at Santa Anita since late January.

Gaines, who has a strong record with first-time starters, is taking her typical cautious approach to the colt's debut.

"I might be running him a little prematurely," she said. "He might not be 100 percent mentally ready to go. We know there is a lot under the hood. I'm just excited to start him."

Nashoba Express is part of a field of 11. Nashoba Express should be suited to the distance, Gaines said.

"He's really showing like he's a two-turn horse, and he won't be a sprinter," she said.

Nashoba's Key was a finalist for the Eclipse Award as the outstanding older turf female of 2007. She won 8 of 10 starts and $1,252,090. She won her first seven starts, and six stakes in her career, including three Grade 1 races.

Nashoba's Key was euthanized last May after suffering a severe leg injury in her stall on the Hollywood Park backstretch.

Mini-betting outlets planned

Santa Anita and other California tracks hope to expand the parimutuel marketplace in coming months with the addition of "mini-satellites" in card clubs, and sports bars.

Though no starting dates have been finalized, the first such location could be the Commerce Casino, near downtown Los Angeles, in late May, Charles said. Racing officials hope that mini-satellites will lure cardplayers and sports fans to bet on races by making the sport more convenient.

Discussions have been held with the owners of sports bars in the San Fernando Valley and Orange County about expanding those properties to accommodate tote machines and the televisions necessary to conduct simulcasting. No deals have been announced.

Legislation allowing mini-satellites was passed in 2007. Racing officials had hoped to open the mini-satellites last summer.