04/12/2008 12:00AM

15 months later, Exhale ready to run

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Exhale was a Triple Crown hopeful in 2007 until his season ended when he was found to have a bone spur in his left knee. Surgery put Exhale on the sidelines.

At the time, trainer John Sadler was philosophical about Exhale's setback, saying "I think he'll be a nice older horse."

Exhale, 4, makes his comeback in an optional claimer over 6 1/2 furlongs in Monday's fifth race at Santa Anita. It will be his first start since he won a maiden race over 6 1/2 furlongs by five lengths in January 2007.

Owned by CRK Stable, Exhale has 1 victory in 2 starts. He was second to eventual stakes winner Notional in a maiden race here in October 2006 in his career debut.

For his return, Exhale has had four consecutive six-furlong workouts since March 18, including a clocking in 1:11.60 on March 24.

Exhale is part of a nine-horse field that includes Street Lights, who was second in the 2006 I'm Smokin Stakes at Del Mar, and the unbeaten Secret Shuttle.

Trained by Paddy Gallagher, Secret Shuttle won a maiden claimer on Feb. 20 and returned to win a starter allowance on March 22. Both races were over 6 1/2 furlongs.

"He'll think we're mad at him to keep stepping him up in company," Gallagher said. "It seems in the mornings he doesn't tear up the track. In the afternoon, he gets competitive."

Classy card for a weekday

Monday's program has three races for maiden claimers, a staple on weekdays, but there are four allowance or optional claiming races, several of which feature promising horses. In addition, there is a starter allowance on the hillside turf course.

The first allowance is the fourth race, run over six furlongs for 3-year-old fillies. Puff Maddie, a two-length winner of a maiden race on March 17; and Officer Allie, second in an optional claimer at Bay Meadows on March 23, lead the field.

The sixth race is an optional claimer run over 1 1/8 miles on turf for 3-year-olds.

Great Siege, the winner of a one-mile maiden race on turf on March 22, makes his first start against winners. By Rock of Gibralter, Great Siege is owned by Amerman Racing and trained by David Hofmans.

In recent weeks, Hofmans has been impressed with Great Siege's training, including an easy five-furlong workout in company in 1:00.80 last Thursday.

"What a nice horse," Hofmans said, as he watched the workout. "He's just a classy horse. He keeps finding gears."

Great Siege is part of a nine-horse field that includes Meer Kat, who was third in the Grade 3 Generous Stakes and Turf Paradise Derby. Meer Kat will wear blinkers for the first time on Monday.

The feature is an optional claimer for sprinters led by Street Boss, a 4-year-old colt trained by Bruce Headley who has won 2 of 3 starts this year.

Mitchell solidifies grip on trainer title

Mike Mitchell all but clinched the training title for the winter-spring meeting with three winners on Friday.

Mitchell won the third race with Uffizi ($5.60), the fifth with Mark Set Go ($5.20), and the sixth with Tamerin ($19.20).

Through Friday, Mitchell had a five-race lead on Doug O'Neill, who was one winner in front of Sadler. The meeting ends next Sunday. Mitchell does not have any runners on Monday's program, while Sadler has three and O'Neill has one.

Two of Mitchell's winners on Friday were ridden by Tyler Baze, who had a four-win day. Baze rode Mark Set Go and Tamerin as well as Beau Smoke ($9.60) in the fourth and Gone Grand ($7) in the ninth.

Through Friday, Baze has 51 wins at the meeting, and trailed Garrett Gomez (63) and Rafael Bejarano (60). Baze is unlikely to catch Gomez or Bejarano, but appears to have a lock on third place. Jockey David Flores is fourth with 44 wins.

Trainer Solis dominates short sprints

A track record is a track record even if it is in a lowly two-furlong maiden race for 2-year-olds.

In Friday's first race, Got Tobe Rio ($10.60) ran two furlongs in 21 seconds, the fastest clocking for that distance since Santa Anita installed a synthetic track last summer.

Got Tobe Rio is trained by Walther Solis, who has won four two-furlong races at this meeting. Got Tobe Rio, who faced males on Friday, will be pointed for the Hollywood Park meeting, which begins on April 23.

"I think she's going to get better," Solis said.