For trainer Ron McAnally, the grass could be greener at Del Mar than it was the last couple of days at Hollywood Park, where the sight of his horses being hauled off after turf races wouldn't go away.
With 28,410 on hand Thursday in 80-degree weather for the opening of Del Mar's 42-day meeting, McAnally teamed with jockey Chris McCarron and the 3-year-old colt Domination to win the $87,800 first division of the Oceanside Stakes, the beginning of a heavily accented turf program.
McAnally led the trainer standings during the Hollywood Park season that ended Monday, but in the last two grass stakes of the meet--the Sunset Handicap and the Robert K. Kerlan Memorial Handicap--he had anxious moments. Plicck won the Sunset, but he was pulled up past the line because of a tendon injury to his left foreleg and his career as a racehorse may be over. The next day, Sam's, one of the favorites in the Kerlan, pulled up before the far turn. McAnally reported Thursday, however, that the Argentine-bred lost one of his shoes.
Domination returned to the scene of his first stakes start last year and the track over which his half-brother, Subordination, won the 1998 Eddie Read Handicap after shipping in from New York.
McAnally, who has won more races (377) than any trainer at Del Mar, thought he had a good chance with Perusing in the second division of the Oceanside, but settled for fifth place as Mula Gula, making his first start on turf, pulled away in the stretch for a 2 1/2-length victory.
Domination paid $6.80 as the favorite in his division, beating Roundabout by 1 1/2 lengths in front-running fashion and running a mile in 1:35 1/5. Domination, a son of Prized and the Desert Wine mare Not So Careless, could be much like his sire, who became an outstanding turf runner once he got the chance. In Prized's first start on grass, he won the Breeders' Cup Turf at Gulfstream Park in 1989.
Domination began his career on dirt and actually was considered a Kentucky prospect as a 2-year-old. After a maiden victory at Hollywood Park last July, he finished second in the Best Pal Stakes here to Worldly Manner, a colt who later was sold to Sheik Mohammed of Dubai for a reported $5 million.
In the Best Pal, Domination suffered a cannon bone injury in his left foreleg. He did not race the rest of the year as the hairline fracture was allowed to heal without surgery. Domination's first two races this year were not encouraging, but he was sent to the turf for the first time in May and won a Hollywood Park allowance race.
"He'll stay on the grass for now," McAnally said. "He acted like he was a nice colt last year. He didn't have to be on the lead, but Chris chose to put him there. Last year, in the first part of this meet, speed was holding up on grass, and then later on the closers on turf were winning. I don't know why."
Said McCarron: "Domination has got good natural speed. He relaxed out of there right away."
Mula Gula, the second choice in the Oceanside's second division, outfinished the favorite, In Frank's Honor, and paid $7.40, running a mile in 1:35 2/5 for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Mula Gula, ridden by Alex Solis, finished fourth in the Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park in June, after starting the year at Golden Gate Fields, where he was second in the California Derby in May.
Hollendorfer, based in Northern California, ranks second nationally in victories (115) and sixth in purses with $3 million. He had won only one stake at Del Mar before Thursday.
Horse Racing Notes
Chris McCarron, the career leader in stakes victories (124) at Del Mar, also rode Snowberg to victory in the Fantastic Girl Stakes. . . . Nine fillies and mares are entered to run against Fiji, last year's female grass champion, in Saturday's $100,000 Osunitas Handicap. Fiji hasn't run since winning the Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita in November. This is the Osunitas field in post-position order: Miss Hot Salsa, Bella Chiarra, Riboletta, Idealistic Cause, Sicy D'Alsace, Que Belle, Cyrillic, Fiji, Happyanunoit and Desert Lady. Fiji will carry 124 pounds, spotting the opposition between six and 12 pounds.