07/23/2008 11:00PM

Well Armed the key to a couple of angles


DEL MAR, Calif. - After one full week of summer racing at Del Mar, the notes and opinions are piling up. It is time to clean out the notebook:

* Don't want to knock the good horse Well Armed, but he undeniably benefited from a Polytrack racing surface that had been watered 90 minutes prior to the Grade 2 San Diego last weekend. Praise for the seemingly "fair" surface is premature considering that all three Polytrack races at 1 1/16 miles at the meet have been won wire to wire. The front-runner Judge Gallivan tries to become the fourth in race 2 on Saturday.

* Speaking of Well Armed, a YouTube video of his July 8 workout shows an unraced 2-year-old hooking in at the half-mile pole, and keeping company with Well Armed all the way to the wire. The juvenile colt, a son of Chapel Royal owned and bred by Stonerside Farm, is named Sports Star. Write it down.

* Few 2-year-olds can work better on Polytrack than Century Park did Wednesday. A daughter of General Meeting, Century Park whistled 59.20 seconds from the gate for trainer Bob Baffert, and she will be live in her debut Sunday in race 2. But it's never that simple. Baffert also entered Toro Bonito, an El Corredor first-time starter breaking from the rail. Last summer, Baffert won three races on Polytrack with offspring of El Corredor.

* Speaking of 2-year-old fillies, is there one better than Stardom Bound? Making her debut last Sunday, she broke in the air, brushed the side of the gate, made an extended run, and missed by a nose. How good is Stardom Bound? Find out Aug. 6, when trainer Chris Paasch runs her back in the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes.

* Finally, the season's first 2-year-old race for open maidens will be run Saturday (race 7). It would have been sooner, but Hollywood Park split a 2-year-old maiden race July 13, effectively killing the Del Mar first-week inventory of 2-year-old maidens. Speight the Halo and Street Hero, the two-three finishers June 29, are the principals on Saturday.

* Here is one to remember. Lahcotah, a 2-year-old Johannesburg colt, had tender shins after a half-mile work May 17 at Hollywood and will miss the summer. He is supposed to be a good one.

* Watching the rain-soaked, wet-track, scratch-laden, off-turf Saratoga card opening day sure made you happy to be at sunny Del Mar, where four of the eight races Wednesday were for maiden claimers.

* After spending much of the past two summers wagering against Lava Man at low odds, count this horseplayer among those who truly will miss the old boy.

* "The hammer is coming down," warned California Horse Racing Board chairman Richard Shapiro, referring to new rules prohibiting anabolic steroids. Good deal. Now, if the CHRB could reduce racing dates, perhaps field size would increase and the product would become more appealing. Not to keep picking on Del Mar, but 19 of the first 42 main-track races this meet have been maiden claimers.

* Seven days into the meet, Polytrack favorites are winning at 24 percent (10 for 42); turf favorites are winning at 22 percent (4 for 18).

* The artificial racing surface at Santa Anita - site of the 2008 Breeders' Cup - will be a combination of Cushion Track and Pro-Ride material. Horsemen are referring to the new surface as "Mystery Mix."

* Win percent never does tell the whole story. Ron McAnally has won with 7 percent of his runners this year (11 for 142), but has generated a huge flat-bet profit ($2.40 for each $2 win wager).

* Stewards were lenient in handing a mere three-day suspension to apprentice Michael Martinez for a dangerous ride last Saturday on It's Time to Shine. Martinez plowed into Continental Dancer at the three-sixteenths pole, knocking that rival sideways. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

* Sensational Score has run himself right out of town. He crushed second-level $80,000 optional claimers last Sunday by four lengths, was a handful to pull up, and earned a 95 Beyer that makes him one of the favorites in the $150,000 Claiming Crown Jewel next Saturday at Canterbury Park. Carl Van Burger and Bongo Racing own Sensational Score, who is trained by Mike Mitchell. As for Bongo and partners, they are on a roll this year - 18 wins from 67 starters.

* Reports of the demise of Garrett Gomez apparently were premature. After starting the meet by going 0 for 19, Gomez won with three of his next five mounts.

* Too bad the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile is not lengthened this year to, say, a mile and 70 yards. It would make it less problematic for horses breaking from Santa Anita's outside post with a quick run to the turn.

* Wednesday was the first racing day after major renovation Tuesday to the Polytrack, and the Del Mar surface produced final times about a second slower than opening week. But did anyone notice? Five of the eight races Wednesday were at 5 1/2 furlongs. If the track plays slow again next Wednesday, it will interesting to see how long it takes to complete 1 1/2 miles in the $150,000 Cougar II Handicap.

* Will Zenyatta run next weekend in the Grade 2 Clement Hirsch? It might depend on how Vixana performs Saturday in race 3. The sharp recent maiden winner will be favored in the first-level allowance route as "pro-dirt" trainer John Shirreffs starts his first horse on the 2008 Polytrack surface.

* In the same race as Vixana, jockey Tyler Baze and Bobby Frankel team for the first time since June 28 at Hollywood Park. Remember that upset winner? It was Mast Track ($23.60) in the Hollywood Gold Cup.

* Two Step Salsa accomplished more than any 3-year-old this summer at Hollywood, where he won two graded sprints and finished second in the Grade 2 Swaps. But for Two Step Salsa, Del Mar will be nothing more than a training facility. Two Step Salsa's next start will be Sept. 1 at Philadelphia Park in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby.

* The top 3-year-old Gayego also will merely train at Del Mar. He will aim for an autumn comeback during the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita.