02/26/2007 1:00AM

Brother Derek bows out of Big Cap


ARCADIA, Calif. - Brother Derek, the winner of the 2006 Santa Anita Derby, will miss Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Handicap to undergo surgery to have a bone chip removed from an ankle, trainer Dan Hendricks said on Sunday.

Brother Derek has "lived with" a bone chip for most of his career, Hendricks said. The trainer said the bone chip was not a problem until recently.

"It's time to take it out," Hendricks said. "It's been in there since his second or third race. It never irritated him but it's moved a little bit. We had hoped to make the handicap first."

Hendricks said that a long-term goal for Brother Derek is the newly created $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Monmouth Park on Oct. 26.

Owned by Cecil Peacock, Brother Derek has won 6 of 16 starts and $1,593,458, but is winless in eight starts since the 2006 Santa Anita Derby. During that span, he was fourth in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

The absence of Brother Derek leaves the Big Cap field with nine probable starters, led by defending champion Lava Man. A winner of 15 of 36 starts and $4,079,706, Lava Man will try to defy recent history when he carries top weight of 124 pounds.

The weight assignment is the highest for a Big Cap starter since the heavily favored Congaree carried 124 pounds in 2003 and lost by a head to Milwaukee Brew. Last year, Lava Man won the Big Cap as the 120-pound topweight.

Trainer Doug O'Neill projected last week that Lava Man would carry 123 pounds.

"I think he's a deserving highweight," O'Neill said. "Now, he needs to run to it. The pressure is on, but he seems to rise to it."

Lava Man will spot his nine probable rivals from 7 to 10 pounds.

Arson Squad, the winner of the Grade 2 Strub Stakes on Feb. 3, is closest to Lava Man in the weights, at 117 pounds. He is followed by Awesome Gem, Ball Four, and Molengao, at 116 pounds; Boboman, McCann's Mojave, and Spring at Last, at 115 pounds; and El Roblar, at 114 pounds.

Awesome Gem, the winner of the Grade 2 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes on Jan. 13, worked six furlongs in 1:13.40 at Hollywood Park on Sunday.

Boboman, the winner of the Hollywood Turf Cup in December, worked five furlongs in 58.80 seconds at Santa Anita on Sunday. The Big Cap will be Boboman's dirt stakes debut.

El Roblar, third in the San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 4, worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 at Santa Anita on Monday.