THOROUGHBRED RACING : Track Wants Best Field for Santa Anita Derby


Hoping to keep some of the more promising 3-year-olds at home, Santa Anita is offering to increase the purse for the $500,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 8.

The Derby purse will be $600,000 if the field includes three winners of a graded stakes at a mile or more and $700,000 if it includes four or more such winners, under an agreement reached by the track and the Thoroughbred Owners of California.

"We have an exceptionally strong crop of 3-year-olds on the West Coast," said Tom Robbins, a track vice president. "We'd like to keep them at home and give fans an opportunity to see them compete against one another before the Kentucky Derby."

The Derby field was already expected to be bigger than originally thought because of what happened in Sunday's San Felipe Stakes.

Even though he remained unbeaten, Afternoon Deelites wasn't as dominant as in his other stakes victories, and Timber Country, the 2-year-old champion, has now lost five races and won four.

Larry The Legend, who has won three in a row after losing his debut, might run locally--or in the Jim Beam on April 1 at Turfway Park--and Fandarel Dancer, the Cal Cup Juvenile winner who was second to Larry The Legend in the San Rafael, is scheduled to run in the Santa Anita Derby.

Among those whose plans are still up in the air are Petionville, who remained unbeaten in four starts by winning the Louisiana Derby last Sunday; In Character, who was second, beaten a neck in that race; and Jumron, who will run in Saturday's Golden State Derby at Bay Meadows.

"I'm not sure what's next," said Petionville's trainer, Randy Bradshaw. "I like to give him at least four weeks between races and the Santa Anita Derby would give him only three. On the other hand, that would set him up well for the Kentucky Derby."

Other possible stops for Petionville are the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland or the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, both on April 15.

Horse Racing Notes

Sierra Diablo, beaten 16 lengths by French Deputy in his first race of 1995, defeated Raji and four others in the $47,300 Baldwin Stakes on Wednesday at Santa Anita. Ridden by Eddie Delahoussaye, the 3-1 second choice covered the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15 1/5. Favored Cold N Calculating finished fourth. . . . Mari's Sheba, who was injured while finishing third behind Serena's Song and Urbane in the Santa Anita Oaks on March 12, continues to recover at Alamo Pintado Equine Clinic. The 3-year-old filly had surgery to repair a fractured cannon bone in her right foreleg. . . . Trainer Eva Smithwick said no decision has been made on whether to retire Mari's Sheba. . . . Key Phrase, who finished her career with five victories in six starts, has been retired rather than have a chip removed from the 4-year-old filly's knee.

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