04/23/2010 12:00AM

Alphie's Bet takes detour off Derby trail


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Even if the California Gold Rush program has slimmed down for 2010, Saturday at Hollywood Park is still a big day for California-breds.

And even if Alphie's Bet has lowered his aim from the Kentucky Derby to the $200,000 Snow Chief Stakes, you have to believe trainer Alex Barba, who said, "This is a nice race he's in on Saturday."

So what if it is not Kentucky Derby? The Snow Chief for 3-year-old statebreds is a good race with a nice purse. And Alphie's Bet?

"We thought he was our Derby horse, but it wasn't in the cards," Barba said. "You can't make it happen."

Instead, Barba and owners Peter Johnson and Theresa McWilliams will focus on the Gold Rush showcase race - the 1 1/8-mile Snow Chief. Besides, there is still time for Alphie's Bet to return to the Triple Crown trail.

"We've thought about the Belmont, and we'll keep that on the back burner," Barba said.

First things come first. Alphie's Bet is the star of a slimmer Gold Rush card with four major stakes instead of the traditional six. Purse cuts necessitated cancellation of two turf races - the $150,000 Khaled and $150,000 Fran's Valentine for fillies and mares.

Purses also were lowered by $50,000 for the Snow Chief and Melair stakes. Nonetheless, along with two maiden races and two allowances for California-breds, the prize money for eight statebred races Saturday is $910,000.

Race 3 is the $150,000 B. Thoughtful for fillies and mares at 7 1/2 furlongs; U R All That I Am is expected to be favored in the five-horse field. Race 4 is the $150,000 Melair for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles; La Nez is expected to go favored.

Race 9 is the $150,000 Tiznow Stakes at 7 1/2 furlongs; 2009 Tiznow winner Liberian Freighter will try to catch lone front-runner, One Track Mind.

The $200,000 Snow Chief is race 6 on the 10-race card, and Alphie's Bet will be heavily backed in the eight-runner field. His rivals include 2-for-2 Self Made, Northern California front-runner Cahill Country, longshot candidate Straightomidnight, and maiden winners Mr Tokyo, Warren's Kong, Working Capital, and Leaving New York.

Alphie's Bet towers over the field. Following a runner-up finish Dec. 26 in the restricted California Breeders' Champion Stakes, he scored a last-to-first maiden win on turf, and followed with a 2 1/4-length victory March 6 in the Grade 3, 1 1/8-mile Sham Stakes.

The Sham stamped Alphie's Bet as a legitimate Kentucky Derby candidate, with a hitch. He had only $90,000 in graded earnings. Alphie's Bet needed a one-two finish in the Santa Anita Derby to make it into the Kentucky Derby field. He never had a chance.

Alphie's Bet broke from post 10, and was caught four and five wide throughout. He tired in midstretch and finished sixth in the 1 1/8-mile race.

"He was very wide; he ran a mile and a quarter," Barba said.

She was not exaggerating by far.

Jockey Mike Smith replaces Alex Solis, but there was one hiccup in Alphie's Bet's preparation. Smith was still sore from a spill when he worked Alphie's Bet last Sunday morning, five furlongs in 1:01.80.

"Too slow," Barba said. "Mike just sat on him. He's a lazy horse. If you sit there, he'll sit there too.

"I hope it wasn't too slow. You always second-guess yourself. But he ran pretty hard [in the Santa Anita Derby] and I'm hoping he's fit off that."

Alphie's Bet has won 2 of 6 starts and $141,320.

Self Made will try to do what Compari did in 2009 - win the Snow Chief in just his third career start. John Sadler trains Self Made, who won his Feb. 21 sprint debut, then scored a deceptively easy allowance win April 1 around two turns. Self Made, an Old Topper colt bred by Tommy Town Thoroughbreds, will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano.