05/27/2007 11:00PM

A.P. Xcellent loves synthetic


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - In three starts on Hollywood Park's synthetic track, A.P. Xcellent has yet to be beaten, winning a maiden race and an allowance race last fall and an allowance here on April 28.

It is the other seven races in his career that have been an issue for owner Stan Fulton and trainer John Shirreffs. A.P. Xcellent's best finish in those starts is a second in an optional claimer on turf at Santa Anita in February.

Those losses will not be an issue if A.P. Xcellent wins his synthetic-track stakes debut in Saturday's $250,000 Californian Stakes.

"He loves this track," said Shirreffs.

That was evident on April 28, when A.P. Xcellent crushed five rivals, pulling away through the final furlong of an allowance race at 1 1/16 miles to win by 5 3/4 lengths.

The Grade 2 Californian at 1 1/8 miles will be more difficult, with a field expected to include Buzzards Bay, the winner of the 2006 Oaklawn Handicap and 2005 Santa Anita Derby, as well as stakes winners such as Boboman, Perfect Drift, Saint Stephen, and Wilko.

A.P. Xcellent will be the one to catch. A confirmed front-runner, he has been with Shirreffs since his 3-year-old debut last July. A.P. Xcellent lost his first two starts for Shirreffs, but has won three of his last six.

"He's a horse with a lot of class," Shirreffs said. "He does well from the front. You don't have to send him. You let him run his race."

Shirreffs said that he and Fulton have had the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting as a goal for months. A big race in the Californian would lead to a start in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup, the richest race of the meeting on the synthetic surface.

"To get him through the winter at Santa Anita, we ran on the turf in the races that we thought wouldn't take a lot out of him," Shirreffs said. "The Gold Cup was the hope in the winter. We think he's in the ballpark. Now he has to score the run."

Baze targets mid-June return

Jockey Tyler Baze, who has not ridden since May 4 because of personal issues, has resumed working horses at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita and is aiming for a mid-June return, according to his agent, Ron Ebanks.

Baze could return between June 10 and 15, depending on how many rides he can secure, Ebanks said.

"He worked five at Santa Anita on Saturday and said, 'I'm ready for more,' " Ebanks said.

Last week, Ebanks said that Baze was targeting a late June comeback, but that date was pushed forward over the weekend.

Sunday, Baze worked horses at both tracks and then met with Hollywood Park stewards, requesting jockeys' room access for Mike Rossi, a Los Angeles-based fitness instructor who calls himself Baze's "life coach and personal trainer."

Ebanks said Rossi could provide nutrition and fitness advice for all riders, which is common for participants in other sports but largely lacking in horse racing.

The stewards took the request under advisement, pending discussions with track management, according to steward Tom Ward.

Baze said in mid-May that he had fought nutrition problems this year that had affected his health. He and Rossi have attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in recent weeks.

Wonderful Luck will return for Landaluce

A month into the meeting, the 2-year-old fillies have produced more flashy performances than the colts.

Last weekend was something of a preview for the $100,000 Landaluce Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on June 30. Saturday, Treadmill, a first-time starter trained by Craig Dollase, won her debut by 2 3/4 lengths.

Sunday, Wonderful Luck won her first stakes in the Cinderella, justifying trainer Steve Asmussen's decision to send her to California from his base in Kentucky.

Wonderful Luck rallied from eighth to win the Cinderella by 2 3/4 lengths. She was not urged late by jockey David Flores after pulling clear of her rivals.

"Wow," Asmussen said when reached by phone shortly after the race. "She's a very fast filly."

The win gave Asmussen a measure of redemption. He started Wonderful Luck against males in the Kentucky Breeders' Cup Stakes on the Kentucky Derby undercard, and watched in frustration as she suffered a poor start.

Wonderful Luck still finished fourth. "Nothing went right for her in the stakes at Churchill," he said.

Asmussen said Wonderful Luck will spend June in Kentucky and then ship back to Hollywood Park for the Landaluce at six furlongs. Wonderful Luck has wins over two synthetic tracks - a maiden win on Keeneland's Polytrack and the Cushion Track here.

"It will be hard not to take her back there," Asmussen said of Hollywood Park.

Treadmill will make her next start in the Landaluce, Dollase said. In her debut, she rallied from fourth to win by 2 3/4 lengths under jockey Corey Nakatani.

The filly is by E Dubai and was bred by owner Paul Reddam.

"It was a pleasure to see how she put it all together in the afternoon," Dollase said.

Dollase said he was impressed that Treadmill reacted well to Nakatani when he guided her to the outside of the pacesetters on the backstretch. Once clear of any kickback, Treadmill quickly gained ground while racing three wide.

"There was a little added pressure with Reddam as the owner-breeder, but we didn't let him down," Dollase said. "I think she has a world of potential."

Avila fined for third positive of same drug

Trainer A.C. Avila has been fined $1,500 after an excessive level of the permitted analgesic phenylbutazone was found in a postrace test taken from Easy Million, the runner-up in the fifth race at Santa Anita on April 18. Easy Million finished second in a $40,000 claimer.

The fine represented Avila's third offense for excessive phenylbutazone in the last year. Trainers are fined $400 for a first offense and $750 for a second offense.