04/24/2008 11:00PM

Best of the rest chasing a quarter-million


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The Snow Chief Stakes for California-bred 3-year-olds is not the best race on the California Gold Rush card at Hollywood Park, but its $250,000 purse makes it the richest.

The 1 1/8-mile Snow Chief (race 9 of 10) will be run without the leader of the division, which does not sadden trainer Ron Ellis.

"I thought that if Bob Black Jack went back to the Kentucky Derby, there weren't a lot of Cal-bred 3-year-olds around," Ellis said, and he entered the improving gelding Dewey's Trick.

The Snow Chief actually ended with a large field of 13, but it does not include any standouts. Dewey's Trick, third last out against older, will start as a legitimate contender in a race that Ellis accurately described as "not much tougher than a Cal-bred one-other-than."

Northern California shipper Pleasure Grounds may start favored after finishing fourth in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows. Nitro Active bucked an anti-inside bias last time at Santa Anita and will influence the pace. The rapidly improving Scott's Spirit has won two straight since stretching out, while Roar of Eagles will try to prove he is more than a late-running sprinter.

Pleasure Grounds drops out of a productive race, and will making his first start outside Northern California. Beaten three lengths in the El Camino, he drew post 13 on Sunday.

"Would I rather have drawn a little more inside? Sure," trainer Dean Pederson said, adding, "Save the excuses . . . excuses are for losers."

Garrett Gomez rides Pleasure Grounds, whose six-start career includes three wins and two seconds.

"He's a horse that needs a patient ride, and when you have Garrett riding, you don't have to worry too much," Pederson said. Pleasure Grounds shipped to Hollywood Park on Tuesday.

The Beyer Speed Figure of 90 earned by Pleasure Grounds in the El Camino tops the field, and the number has been validated. The race produced the Lexington winner Behindatthebar, the Santa Anita Derby's third-place finisher Coast Guard, and the Arkansas Derby's third-place finisher Tres Borrachos.

As for Dewey's Trick, he has hit the board in all three starts since stretching to two turns.

"I wasn't real thrilled with his sprints, but when we stretched him out, he ran huge," Ellis said, anticipating further improvement Sunday. "The mile and an eighth is going to be to his benefit."

Nitro Active took all the worst of it last time in an entry-level allowance, pressing the pace while racing on the slower inside path at Santa Anita. The winner of that race was Behindatthebar, who subsequently won the Lexington Stakes.

Roar of Eagles has won 2 of 3 starts, despite trouble each time. He steadied at the start of his debut, but flew late and won by two lengths. Craig Lewis claimed him that day for $32,000 for owners Al and Sandee Kirkwood, and the gelding overcome a slow start next time to win a maiden-40 starter. Third time out, he was fanned wide into the lane, and missed by only 1 1/2 lengths.

But can he run long?

"I think he can," Lewis said. "His temperament and the way he travels, he gives indications he can go long. And for 250, it's worth finding out."