08/07/2007 12:00AM

Winning races, losing horses


DEL MAR, Calif. - Trainer Cody Autrey brought 16 horses to Del Mar from Texas for the first time last month.

At the pace his barn is shrinking via claims by rival trainers, it seems that Autrey may be down to little more than feed buckets and webbings by the end of the meeting on Sept. 5.

Through Sunday, Autrey, 27, has had nine horses claimed from him for a combined price of $264,000. He reacted by replenishing his stable with additional horses from his Texas and Oklahoma divisions, boosting the stable back to 15.

"Every horse in the barn except three were claimed," he said. "Whether we lose the rest through [claims], it just doesn't matter. We didn't bring them here to lose them, but we didn't mind losing them."

Not all of them will start for claiming prices at this meeting. Autrey is thinking of keeping horses in California after Sept. 5, and racing at the Los Angeles County fair meeting at Fairplex Park and at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting.

He has more than 80 horses in training here and in the Southwest, and can always ship more to California, if necessary.

In some cases in recent weeks, the horses that Autrey lost turned a mighty strong profit for clients.

Dearest Trickski, claimed for $32,000 after finishing sixth in a sprint for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday, was claimed for $10,000 in April by Autrey on behalf of Texas-based owners Sandy and Jerry Heflin and Ywachetta and James Driver.

In three starts for the Heflin-Driver team, including Saturday's race, Dearest Trickski won twice, earned $31,400 in purses, and was claimed for a value considerably higher than what they paid to claim him.

"We made $50,000," Autrey said. "We don't get disappointed when that happens. We get disappointed when they don't win."

Through Sunday, Autrey had one winner from 16 starters, a result that he said was below expectations.

"I thought we'd win four races by now," he said. "We've got some speed horses and they haven't been as useful as we'd like."

Worse, Autrey was notified last week by the California Horse Racing Board about a possible medication violation. Autrey declined to comment, pending further tests, he said.

"I'd like to know all the facts," he said.

Later this month, Autrey has a potential stakes starter in Mr. Nightlinger, one of the recent arrivals. Mr. Nightlinger was third in the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby in his stakes debut in May.

Previously trained by Bret Calhoun, Mr. Nightlinger is a candidate for the $125,000 El Cajon Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile on Aug. 31, Autrey said.

Crossing the Line gets new rider

Crossing the Line, the winner of two optional claimers on turf at Hollywood Park earlier this year, will have a different jockey when he makes his American stakes debut in the $400,000 Del Mar Mile on Aug. 19, trainer John Sadler said.

Garrett Gomez will replace Joe Talamo on the 4-year-old New Zealand-bred. Sadler said the decision was made with the major stakes of the fall in mind.

"If he is a big horse, and we have to put up the money to run in the Breeders' Cup, you want a veteran turf rider," Sadler said. "I love Joe Talamo, and I don't know if he's ready to ride the Breeders' Cup [Mile]. It's no knock on him."

Sadler is hoping that Crossing the Line can win the Del Mar Mile and earn an automatic berth into the $2omillion Breeders' Cup Mile at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27. This is the first year that the Breeders' Cup has offered automatic berths to Breeders' Cup races in connection with some major prep races.

Gomez also picks up Big Booster

Gomez will ride Big Booster in the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 19, according to trainer Mike Mitchell.

Big Booster was third in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on June 30 behind Pacific Classic hopefuls Lava Man and A.P. Xcellent.

Mitchell will also start Sun Boat, the winner of the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap here on July 22. Sun Boat will be ridden by Michael Baze, who rode Big Booster in the Gold Cup.

On Monday, Baze breezed Sun Boat five furlongs in 1:01.40, and Big Booster worked six furlongs in 1:16.

La Jolla crucial for Ten a Penny

Ten a Penny, who won the first of three divisions of the Oceanside Stakes on July 20, was supplemented to Saturday's $150,000 La Jolla Handicap at a cost of $1,500 on Monday and is likely to start in the turf race for 3-year-olds, according to trainer Craig Dollase.

Dollase had intended to pass the La Jolla in favor of the $400,000 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 2, but included the La Jolla in Ten a Penny's schedule after he realized that the winners of the restricted Oceanside Stakes no longer receive automatic berths to the Del Mar Derby, which had been the case in past years.

Del Mar director of racing Tom Robbins said the clause was omitted from this year's Del Mar Derby conditions at the recommendation of the American Graded Stakes Committee. The committee stated that granting an automatic berth to the winner of a restricted race could prevent a more qualified horse from starting in the Del Mar Derby, Robbins said.

The Del Mar Derby is a Grade 2 run at 1 1/8 miles on turf and is considered the 3-year-old championship of the Del Mar meeting.

If the Del Mar Derby oversubscribes, preference is given to group or graded stakes winners, followed by horses that have placed in such races, and earnings from non-claiming races. Ten a Penny has yet to win or place in a graded stakes, making the Grade 2 La Jolla an important start.

"We didn't think he'd have enough earnings," Dollase said. "Our plan was to go straight to the Del Mar Derby."

Ten a Penny is co-owned by Joe Masino's Class Racing Stable, which is likely to start Comical Vacation in the $250,000 Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 3.

The filly easily beat statebred maidens in her second career start in Monday's fourth race, drawing off to win by 4 1/4 lengths. Ridden by Michael Baze for trainer Jeff Mullins, Comical Vacation ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:06.57.

The Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante is run over seven furlongs.