ARCADIA, Calif. -- Despite some supply delays, Del Mar has nearly completed the installation of a Polytrack synthetic surface on its main track and will send horses over the surface for the first time later this month, according to track vice president Craig Fravel.
Fravel said Wednesday that the installation of the surface is "85 to 90 percent done," with only the rail portion of the final turn left to be completed.
"We've finished the sub-surface work and finished both chutes and most of the main track," he said. "We've had a little trouble getting sand out of a rail site in Corona, so we're moving a little slower than we thought."
Fravel said the project should be completed within a week and that horses could test the surface on April 23 or 24.
"We thought we'd be finished a lot earlier," he said.
Trainers Doug O'Neill, Richard Mandella, and Peter Miller will have horses exercise on the surface later this month, Fravel said.
"We want to give them a shot to go over it," Fravel said. "We've had some show horses on the seven-furlong chute and they loved it. They're a lot pickier than Thoroughbred people."
Part of the Del Mar surface will be covered in late June and early July when the San Diego County Fair operates on racetrack property. Fravel said the homestretch will be covered to accommodate a stage and other activities during the fair.
The cover "is used in stadiums to protect the turf when they have concerts," Fravel said.
Del Mar is the second track in the state to install a synthetic surface, which is required by the California Horse Racing Board by the end of 2007 for any of the state's tracks that wish to run more than four consecutive weeks of Thoroughbred racing in 2008. Hollywood Park installed a Cushion Track surface last August, and Golden Gate Fields will install a Tapeta track this summer.
Last month, Bay Meadows asked for a two-year waiver from installing such a surface because the track will eventually be demolished for redevelopment. The request was rejected by the racing board, and Bay Meadows officials announced last month that the track will not request dates for next year.
Santa Anita is expected to announce by the end of the month what sort of synthetic surface it will install this summer. The surface will be in place for the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting that begins in late September.
Tiago back on track and feeling riled up
Tiago, the upset winner of the Santa Anita Derby last Saturday, resumed racetrack training on Wednesday, and it was just in the nick of time, trainer John Shirreffs said.
Tiago was exercised on the Hollywood Park training track, adjacent to Shirreffs's barn.
"He went to the track and jogged 1 1/2 miles," Shirreffs said. "He almost dumped his rider. He reared up a few times and bucked a few times.
"I wouldn't to have wanted to wait another day. When he's a little fresh he does that."
Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Tiago won his first stakes in the Santa Anita Derby. He is expected to be a longshot in the Kentucky Derby.
Shirreffs said Tiago will have his first post-Santa Anita Derby workout next week.
"He came out of that race pretty good and showed no ill effects of having run," Shirreffs said. "He's not the least bit tired."
Liquidity will have blinkers off in Louisville
Liquidity, who finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby, remains on course for the Kentucky Derby, trainer Doug O'Neill said. Beaten 4 1/4 lengths by Tiago, Liquidity will race without blinkers in the Kentucky Derby.
"We're going to shock the world on Derby Day," O'Neill said. "We're going to take him back and make one run. On any given day, if he runs the way he has shown, he is capable of anything. He just doesn't apply himself. He wasn't even tired after the race."
Owned by Paul Reddam, Liquidity has been sent to Keeneland where he will continue his Kentucky Derby preparation.
Golden Balls makes U.S. debut in La Puente
They are both restarting their lives in Los Angeles this year, they both have big reputations, and they both cost a lot of money.
Golden Balls, the 3-year-old colt trained by Jim Cassidy, makes his U.S. debut in Saturday's $100,000 La Puente Stakes at a mile on turf.
David Beckham, the star soccer player who is sometimes referred to as Golden Balls for his outstanding free kicks and handsome looks, will relocate to Los Angeles in July to play for the L.A. Galaxy in Major League Soccer. Earlier this year, Beckham signed a five-year contract with the Galaxy valued at $250 million.
Compared to that, Cassidy and his partners found a bargain when they paid about $400,000 for Golden Balls in a sale in England last fall.
While Beckham is a world-class player arguably on the down side of his career, Golden Balls is full of promise. He ran seven times at 2, winning twice. Cassidy is convinced he will be a factor in California's major turf stakes for 3-year-olds this year.
Golden Balls survived a health scare shortly after arriving last fall. Cassidy said the colt may have stepped on a nail during the journey and needed several weeks and extensive tests before he was able to start full training.
Wednesday morning, Cassidy had Golden Balls in the walking ring outside his barn. Golden Balls was playful, rearing up a few times and displaying the energy of a colt who has not started in six months.
"He's kind of a [jerk] to mess with," Cassidy said. "He's a good-feeling colt."
Cassidy said Golden Balls caught his eye quickly at the Tattersalls horses-in-training sale last fall. "It's kind of hard to look at others after you pass him," Cassidy said.
The other probable La Puente starters are Desert Code, Shem, Star Inside, Streets Ahead, Vaunt, and Vauquelin.
One concern for Cassidy is the La Puente distance. He thinks Golden Balls may want to run farther than a mile.
"He's definitely a stayer," he said. "I see his stride getting better and better the farther he goes."