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It's a Big Day, a Big Crowd, a Big Success

Horse racing: Del Mar runs smoothly with 44,181 in attendance, which could lead to a Breeders' Cup.


DEL MAR, Calif. — This track was tested like never before Saturday and, by all accounts, it passed.

The on-track attendance of 44,181 was nearly 10,000 more than the previous record of 34,697 who showed up on opening day of the 1994 meeting.

The handle also shattered the previous best. A total of $20.8 million was bet on Saturday's card, surpassing the old mark of $15,506,324, set Aug. 19 of last year.

Most important of all, things seemed to run smoothly, and although Cigar lost for the first time since Oct. 7, 1994, everybody saw the horse they wanted to see.

They crowded around the paddock to catch a glimpse of the superstar and, of course, saved their loudest cheers for him in the post parade.

"Hopefully, some who were here today will come back," said Joe Harper, Del Mar's president, chief executive officer and general manager. "We couldn't be happier with the way the day went. I saw our operations manager [Tim Read] about half an hour ago and he was smiling very broadly. The last couple of days have been very special."

It was also welcome for Del Mar because, for most of the first 2 1/2 weeks of the meeting, attendance had been down from the previous meeting.

In addition, Saturday had one member of the California Horse Racing Board saying Del Mar had deemed itself worthy of hosting a Breeders' Cup in the future.

"They deserve to be considered for a Breeders' Cup eventually, the way they handled this crowd," said Don Valpredo. "It was first-class all the way today. I wandered around the stands quite a bit and everything was going wonderfully. Del Mar rose to the occasion."

Now, it remains to be seen how the remaining 27 days of the meeting go, but track officials hope they will finish in a rally.

"This was a fantastic happening," said John Mabee, the track's chairman of the board. "This was history today. They'll be talking about this race 30 or 40 years from now.

"Hopefully, there will be a carryover of the fans who came because of Cigar. We hope they'll be back."


While there was a major upset in the Pacific Classic, the day's other stakes event, the $103,500 Rancho Bernardo Handicap, went true to form.

Track Gal, the 4-5 favorite, had little trouble with her four rivals, winning by five lengths in 1:14 3/5 for the 6 1/2 furlongs.

In providing Chris McCarron with his 100th stakes victory at Del Mar, the 5-year-old Track Barron mare remained unbeaten in three tries on this track and is now 11 for 16 lifetime.

"Oh, man, this feels good," said McCarron, who has won more stakes at this track than any other jockey. "And to do it on a mare like this is surely sweet. She's as genuine as a race horse can be.

"[Trainer] John Sadler does a terrific job with her. He spots her right and he never runs her too much. When he brings her over, she's ready to run."

Tricky Code, the longest shot in the field at 8-1, was second, nearly two lengths ahead of Evil's Pic. Denim Yenem, the 5-2 second choice, was fourth.

Horse Racing Notes

Making his first start for Richard Mandella and first start on turf, Roar is the 3-1 favorite against nine other 3-year-olds in the $125,000 La Jolla Handicap today. A son of Forty Niner, Roar has won four of 11 while racing in New York, Kentucky and Florida. Corey Nakatani will ride. Also in the field are Caribbean Pirate and Ambivalent, who each won a division of the opening-day Oceanside, Pugnacious, Belair Cozz, The Barking Shark, Mateo, Troysend, Doman Lore and Benton Creek. . . . In addition to the Pacific Classic, Alex Solis won two other races Saturday and Chris McCarron also had three winners. . . . Maria's Mon, the champion 2-year-old in 1995, has been retired and will be a stud at Pin Oak Farm in Kentucky. The colt suffered a leg injury last year and had run only twice in 1996. . . . Broadway Flyer, trained by Dick Mott, caught Kiri's Clown in the stretch and pulled away to a six-length turf victory in the $250,000 Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

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