08/02/2006 11:00PM

Unexpected rain causes rare switch for opening sprint

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Trainer Dan Hendricks, watching workouts this week, called an audible and won with Runaway Dancer.

DEL MAR, Calif. - A pesky drizzle on Thursday morning led Del Mar officials to transfer the day's first race from the turf to the main track, a rare decision for a summertime meeting that is typically blessed with ideal weather.

The pre-dawn drizzle did not let up until late morning. By then, the track had received approximately a 10th of an inch of rain, according to turf course superintendent Leif Dickinson. Because the first race was scheduled for five furlongs on turf and the course had been irrigated on Wednesday evening, Dickinson said the decision was made to switch surfaces.

The final two turf races of the day, each run at 1 1/16 miles, were scheduled to remain on turf.

"That's more [rain] than we thought we'd get," Dickinson said. "I'm most concerned about the five furlongs. The thatch and the turf is fairly wet. The profile is firm. When that happens, the potential for slippage is elevated."

Dickinson said the narrow backstretch is a cause of concern. The backstretch is narrower than the homestretch, resulting in only two rail settings - the normal position, and a temporary position seven feet from the rail. Dickinson said that a five-furlong turf race on a wet track would add considerable wear to the backstretch and part of the final turn.

"We don't have three rail moves on the backstretch," he said. "The prudent thing to do is err on the side of safety."

Dickinson said the wet weather, which led to the cancellation of turf works on Thursday morning, came as a surprise.

"There was no call for this yesterday," he said. "It was a complete shock. We irrigated last night. We wouldn't have done it if we'd known it was going to come up."

Filly euthanized after work injury

Early Ronan, a 4-year-old filly who ran in a $50,000 claiming race at Hollywood Park last month, was euthanized after suffering injuries during exercise Thursday morning.

Trainer Gary Stute said that Early Ronan suffered sesamoid injuries in the stretch during a workout. Owned by Kendall Mann, Early Ronan won four of 20 starts and $125,300. Early Ronan was claimed for $40,000 at Santa Anita last March.

Early Ronan is the ninth horse to be euthanized as a result of injuries suffered at this meeting, which began on July 19. Three horses have been hurt during training, while six have suffered catastrophic injuries during races.

Dad's advice helps 'Dancer' win

Runaway Dancer ended a 14-month losing streak in Wednesday's $88,605 Escondido Handicap, a race his connections nearly passed.

A last-minute decision last Sunday by trainer Dan Hendricks and Gayle Van Leer, the racing manager for RL Stables, led to Runaway Dancer being entered.

Ridden by Alex Solis, Runaway Dancer ($9.20) ran 1 3/8 miles on turf in 2:13.20. He stalked pacesetters Leprechaun Kid and On the Acorn to the final turn and took the lead in early stretch. Runaway Dancer won by 2 1/2 lengths over Aubonne, a 6-year-old mare.

Runaway Dancer had finished sixth in the Sunset Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 16 in his most recent start.

"He's more fresh," Hendricks said. "He had more of an attitude."

Hendricks said his father, Lee, a former trainer, suggested ways to train Runaway Dancer differently in an effort to end an eight-race losing streak dating back to the Jim Murray Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park in May 2005.

"He told me a few things I should try," said Hendricks, declining to elaborate.

Healthy Addiction ready for Hirsch

Healthy Addiction was beaten a half-length in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 2. It was the rare instance when trainer John Sadler walked away content after a runner-up finish.

"It was one of her best races," Sadler said. "She ran her little tail off."

Healthy Addiction was on the front throughout in the Vanity, which had a quick pace. She was passed by Hollywood Story in the stretch, but stayed on to just miss. Healthy Addiction earned a career-best Beyer Figure of 104.

Sunday, Healthy Addiction returns in the $300,000 Clement Hirsch Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. The shorter distance may help Healthy Addiction, who is expected to race near the front.

"She's doing better than ever," Sadler said. "She's breezed very well for this race."

Healthy Addiction drew post 2 in a field of six. The other starters are Happy Ticket, Hollywood Story, Maryfield, Somethinaboutlaura and Star Parade.

Healthy Addiction is likely to be retired at the end of the year. Because she has not performed well when shipped out of town, Sadler is likely to keep her in California through the rest of the year, pointing for races such as the Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap on turf here in September, the Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap at Oak Tree at Santa Anita in October, and the Matriarch Stakes on turf at Hollywood Park in November.

She is unlikely to run in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs in November.