07/26/2006 11:00PM

Vet staff to expand to three

Spot the Diplomat, Victor Espinoza riding, wins the Graduation Stakes for California-bred 2-year-olds.

DEL MAR, Calif. - A day after two horses were euthanized as a result of injuries suffered during races at Del Mar, bringing to seven the number of fatalities at the meeting, track officials on Thursday moved forward with a plan to add a third veterinarian to the prerace inspection team.

Del Mar vice-president Craig Fravel said racing officials were scheduled to meet on Thursday to complete staffing plans. Fravel said the third inspector could be in place by the weekend.

The addition of a third vet was welcome news to track veterinarian Steve Buttgenbach, who along with state veterinarian Greg Beck conducts morning inspections.

"I would love to see that," Buttgenbach said.

Buttgenbach said the expansive barn area at Del Mar has made morning inspections difficult.

"We can get it done, but this is not an easy backstretch to examine horses," Buttgenbach said. "It takes me four hours to do what takes 2 1/2 hours at Santa Anita or Hollywood."

Dr. Rick Arthur, a private veterinarian who is giving up his practice this fall to become the California Horse Racing Board's equine medical director, said the third person "would spread the workload" of conducting prerace inspections.

Arthur said a third person would focus on administrative tasks, such as drawing blood from horses that are on the veterinarian's list, which consumes part of Beck and Buttgenbach's time.

Discussions have been held with a candidate, Arthur said, but nothing had been finalized as of Thursday morning.

Arthur said the addition of a third veterinarian could allow the vets to examine a horse more than once.

"We're trying to take a different approach and identify problems before they come up," he said.

Since the start of the meeting on July 19, six horses have been euthanized as a result of injuries suffered in races and one was euthanized after being injured during training.

Fravel said that Mick Peterson, a mechanical engineering professor from the University of Maine, inspected the track "with ground-penetrating radar" on Sunday and Monday and found no inconsistencies. Peterson has worked with California tracks on maintenance and safety in the past.

"We're continuing to monitor" the track, Fravel said. "We're adding sand in small increments each night."

Wednesday, Esroh broke down on the turn of a maiden claimer at 1 1/16 miles, and Bonus Pack was pulled up after finishing third in a $32,000 claimer at six furlongs.

Esroh was making his fourth start. Trained by Paul Aguirre, Esroh suffered injuries to his left foreleg.

Bonus Pack was pulled up after the sixth race with injuries to his right foreleg. An 8-year-old gelding, Bonus Pack has won 10 of 54 starts and had been with trainer Bill Spawr's stable since being claimed for $50,000 last August.

"I ran a sound horse and he got hurt," Spawr said. "I'm very concerned" about the track.

Bonus Pack was claimed on Wednesday by trainer Ted H. West on behalf of Maggi Moss.

Injured Jaime out 6-7 weeks

Jockey Ricardo Jaime is expected to miss six to seven weeks after suffering a broken left collarbone when he was thrown from Esroh.

Jaime, who has won 28 races this year, said he hopes to return to riding during the Los Angeles County Fair meeting at Fairplex Park in September. The collarbone "needs time and rest," he said. "It's a tiny fracture."

Jaime said that Esroh "was making a move at the three-eighths pole and then boom. I landed on my back. I couldn't move. Everything hurt bad in my back."

He said he underwent X-rays on his back, neck, and head, but that only his collarbone was injured.

Plans for Spot the Diplomat

Spot the Diplomat is likely to remain with statebreds after winning his stakes debut in Wednes-day's $133,400 Graduation Stakes for California-bred 2-year-olds.

Owner-breeder John Harris said Spot the Diplomat will be considered for the $100,000 I'm Smokin Stakes for statebreds at six furlongs on Sept. 4. Another option is to try graded stakes in the $150,000 Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 13 or the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 6.

Spot the Diplomat has won two of three starts and $112,440. After finishing third in a maiden race at Hollywood Park on June 1, he won a maiden race by 3 3/4 lengths on July 8.

In the Graduation Stakes, Spot the Diplomat ($5.40) fought for the early lead with Zoning In and pulled clear in the stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Ridden by Victor Espinoza for trainer Carla Gaines, Spot the Diplomat ran the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.20.

River Echo, a maiden owned by Harris, finished second, a nose in front of Twin Fin in the field of six.

* Brother Derek, unraced since finishing fourth in the Preakness Stakes in May, worked a half-mile in 47.40 seconds on Thursday, the fastest of 19 recorded works at the distance. The winner of the Santa Anita Derby and two other stakes earlier this year, Brother Derek is a candidate for the $100,000 El Cajon Stakes here on Sept. 2.