04/07/2009 11:00PM

Arden Park steps out of his comfort zone


ARCADIA, Calif. - Trainer Greg Gilchrist never expected that Arden Park could sneak his way into the Triple Crown picture this spring. The colt started his career in January, too late for that discussion to take place.

Instead, Arden Park will stay in California this spring, attempting to extend his unbeaten streak. He won his first two starts, both at Golden Gate Fields earlier this year, and will make his stakes debut in Saturday's $100,000 La Puente Stakes at Santa Anita.

"There really isn't much else for him," Gilchrist said.

The one-mile La Puente will be a test for Arden Park - his first start outside of Golden Gate Fields, and his first start on turf. The surface switch is not a major issue for Gilchrist, but he is concerned about the step up in class.

Arden Park won his debut in a one-mile maiden race by three-quarters of a length on Jan. 29, racing near the front throughout. In an optional claimer at a mile on Feb. 27, he closed from fifth with a four-wide move to win by 5 1/2 lengths. The latter victory left Gilchrist impressed with the colt's ability.

"His first race was good in the fact that he ran a mile the first time," Gilchrist said. "The second race, he ran very tactical and exploded turning for home."

The La Puente is the last stakes for 3-year-olds on turf on the circuit until the $100,000 Cinema Handicap at 1 1/8 miles at Hollywood Park on June 21. Hollywood has canceled the one-mile Will Rogers Stakes this year, citing the need to reduce stakes purses to preserve overnight purses. The Will Rogers was typically run in mid-May.

Soul City Slew a barefoot speedster

A former $50,000 claimer who wears shoes on only two feet has become a leader in the California sprint division.

Soul City Slew, a 6-year-old gelding, won the first stakes of his 36-race career in the $126,000 Potrero Grande Handicap last Saturday. He will be after another in the $100,000 Los Angeles Handicap at Hollywood Park on May 16.

Soul City Slew does not wear shoes on his hind feet, in training or racing, trainer Jack Carava said. He said the gelding travels better without them, and Carava learned that the hard way.

"I put some on and he didn't run very well," he said.

Carava claimed Soul City Slew on behalf of La Canada Stable for $50,000 on Feb. 6 after considering a claim in a $62,500 race on Jan. 2. Carava held back that day, and saved a few bucks by waiting nearly a month.

"I went and looked at the horse the race before we claimed him and he didn't look as good as I thought, but he ran better than I thought," Carava said. "He looked fairly sound for his age."

Soul City Slew placed in two graded stakes earlier in his career. In the Potrero Grande at 6 1/2 furlongs, Soul City Slew closed from sixth in a field of seven to win by a half-length.

The California sprint division has changed in recent months. Johnny Eves, the winner of the Palos Verdes Handicap in January, is sidelined with injury. Georgie Boy, who breezed six furlongs in 1:11.80 at Hollywood Park on Wednesday, is being considered for the $600,000 Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park on May 25.

The Pamplemousse will be out a year

The Pamplemousse will be given a full year off before resuming training, co-owner Alex Solis II said on Wednesday.

One of California's top 3-year-olds this year, The Pamplemousse was diagnosed with a lesion on a tendon last weekend. He was entered for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby last Saturday, but was scratched on race morning.

Tests conducted on Sunday revealed the injury. At the time, Solis, the son of the prominent jockey, said The Pamplemousse would need six to 12 months to recover. The longer time frame is more likely, Solis said.

"We'll probably give him a year off," Solis said, adding that veterinarian Jeff Blea thinks he can make it back. "It's better to be safe than sorry."

Trained by Julio Canani, The Pamplemousse has won 3 of 5 starts and $209,280. He won two Grade 3 stakes earlier this year, the San Rafael and the Sham, to become a top contender for the Santa Anita Derby.

Earlier first post at Hollywood

Hollywood Park has pushed forward post times for most racing days to 1 p.m. for its upcoming spring-summer meeting, which begins on April 22.

Last year, the first post time for most days was 1:20 p.m.

This year, first post on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays will be 1 p.m., with the primary start time on Friday at 7:05op.m. First post on Friday, May 1, the day of the simulcast of the Kentucky Oaks, will be 1 p.m.

First post times for Triple Crown days - May 2, May 16, and June 6 - will be 11 a.m. First post time for the California Gold Rush program on April 25 will be 12:30 p.m.

Contest for premium Del Mar seats

Del Mar is conducting a random drawing for table seating for three of its restaurants for two of its best-attended days - opening day on Julyo22, and Pacific Classic Day, Sept. 6.

From April 13-15, customers can apply on the track's website, , for tables to the Clubhouse Terrace, Stretch Run Grill, and Cafe Del Sol. The tables are $125 for four people.

Winners will be notified by e-mail.

Table reservations for the other days of the meeting, and reserved seat tickets, will begin on May 15.

* Jockeys Rafael Bejarano and Aaron Gryder are riding at Oaklawn Park on Saturday. Bejarano, second in the standings through Sunday, rides Papa Clem in the Arkansas Derby. Gryder, who won the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 28, rides Captain Cherokee in the same race.