11/04/2008 1:00AM

Avila buys Two Step Salsa


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The brilliantly fast Two Step Salsa, third in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and a favorite for the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes come opening day at Santa Anita, has been sold by owner-breeder Jeff Nielsen (Everest Stables) and is now owned and trained by A.C. Avila.

The sale and barn transfer, which took place Oct. 31, was confirmed Tuesday by Avila and Two Step Salsa's former trainer Julio Canani. Avila said he was the sole buyer, but added that his ownership of the 3-year-old Petionville colt may only be temporary.

"My plan is to sell the horse," Avila said. "If I don't, I'll run him in the Malibu."

Two Step Salsa would be one of the favorites in the Malibu, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds traditionally run Dec. 26, opening day of the Santa Anita winter meet. The Malibu is the first leg of the Strub Series for horses that turn 4 years old on Jan. 1.

Two Step Salsa has won 4 races and $386,540 from 8 starts, including Grade 3 wins at Hollywood Park in the seven-furlong Lazaro Barrera and the 1 1/16-mile Affirmed Handicap. But the third-place Breeders' Cup finish by Two Step Salsa was the best effort of his career. He set a blazing pace (45.02 seconds and 1:08.57), led to inside the eighth pole, and tired to third behind Albertus Maximus.

Avila believes Two Step Salsa will stretch out his speed.

"The key for me is to get him to relax," Avila said.

Avila declined to reveal the purchase price.

Idiot Proof moves to New York

The synthetic surfaces Pro-Ride and Polytrack have chased Grade 1-winning sprinter Idiot Proof out of California. Trainer Cliff Sise said the 4-year-old colt was shipped Monday to New York, where he is expected to be trained at Aqueduct by Bruce Levine.

"He's a much better horse on dirt," Sise said.

Marty Wygod owns and bred Idiot Proof, a California-bred by Benchmark with 5 wins from 15 starts including the Grade 1 Ancient Title Handicap, and earnings of more than $1.2 million.

"Marty wanted to try him on the inner track at Aqueduct," Sise said, "and I expect him to rebound."

Idiot Proof finished 13th in his most recent start in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.

Although he won 2 of 3 starts on Cushion Track, Idiot Proof struggled on the other synthetic surfaces in Southern California. Two of his worst performances were on Pro-Ride at Santa Anita (fifth in the 2008 Ancient Title) and on Polytrack at Del Mar (third at odds of 3-10 in the 2007 Real Good Deal Stakes). "Some horses like [synthetic surfaces], and some don't," Sise said.

Asked if he lost his best horse, Sise said, "I lost my favorite horse."

Albertus Maximus eyes San Antonio Handicap

A trainer said to fellow trainer Vladimir Cerin: "It must be nice to look out the window of your house and see a Breeders' Cup winner."

He was referring to BC Dirt Mile winner Albertus Maximus, whose vacation at Cerin's ranch in Bradbury ends Friday when he resumes training at Santa Anita. But there is no rush by Cerin, or owners Brandon and Marianne Chase, for Albertus Maximus to return to action.

"We just gave him a couple weeks off," Cerin said, adding that a tentative target for his comeback is the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap in February at Santa Anita, followed by the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap in March. "I think he can go a mile and a quarter," Cerin said, referring to the distance of the Santa Anita Handicap.

Based on his recent improvement, the sky is the limit.

Albertus Maximus had a maiden win and two allowance wins in his first 12 starts before changing barns in summer. In three starts for Cerin, he won a minor stakes at Del Mar, finished third in the Grade 1 Goodwood, and scored a 1 1/4-length win in the BC Dirt Mile.

Plans are more immediate for Cerin-trained Briecat, winner of a second-level allowance Oct. 30 at Hollywood Park. She runs Nov. 15 at Turf Paradise in a mile turf stakes for 3-year-old fillies, after which Cerin said she will shorten to seven furlongs in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes early in the Santa Anita winter meet.

Cerin said that Accopela Choir, wide-trip fifth in a minor stakes Oct. 26 at Santa Anita, also will aim for the La Brea.

Queen Ofthe Catsle banged up, turned out

Queen Ofthe Catsle came out of the Dance in the Mood Stakes on Oct. 29 at Hollywood Park worse for wear, and trainer Howard Zucker said the 4-year-old filly will be sidelined for an undetermined time. Queen Ofthe Catsle's win in the six-furlong turf stakes was her fourth straight; she was aiming for the Grade 3 Monrovia Handicap early at Santa Anita meet.

"She came back a little bruised up; I am going to turn her out," Zucker said.

Queen Ofthe Catsle has won 6 races and $300,509 from 13 starts. Zucker said she might return midway through the winter meet.

New Frankel Euros may go in Hollywood Derby

Grade 2 winners Court Vision and Gio Ponti are the likely co-favorites for the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby on Nov. 30, but European new shooters Fifteen Love and Midships had their initial U.S. workouts last week for trainer Bobby Frankel and will be considered for the $500,000 race.

"It depends on how they train," Frankel said. "They've been here about a week, and if they train well" they could run.

Based on overseas form, Fifteen Love is the better horse. He has won 4 races and $337,321 from 10 starts, but finished well back in his only start beyond one mile. Midships is 2 for 10 with earnings of only $72,470, but he has a win and a second his two most recent starts at the Hollywood Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles. Both colts are owned by Juddmonte Farms.