04/03/2006 11:00PM

Brother Derek now lone speed

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Jack Coady/Coady Photography
Trainer Jeff Mullins says it's prudent to rest Sweet Fourty rather than run her in the Kentucky Oaks.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The road to the Kentucky Derby just got easier for Brother Derek.

A key defection from the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby - sprinter Fast Parade is out - means Brother Derek should be loose on the lead Saturday in his final prep for the Kentucky Derby.

Trainer Virginia Padgett said Tuesday that Fast Parade would skip the Santa Anita Derby and run instead in the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes on April 22 at Keeneland. She said the Santa Anita race Saturday was "not a good time to test if your horse can run that far," and added that the Lexington was a "better spot to see if he can run long. . . . We think the [Keeneland] track bias will help."

Jim McIngvale owns Fast Parade, a 3-for-5 speedball who scored an impressive comeback win March 4 in the Baldwin Stakes while trained by Peter Miller. Fast Parade would have been the main pace rival for Brother Derek, but Padgett, who took over as Fast Parade's trainer last week, said the horse "needed a little more time" to prepare for his first try around two turns.

It is welcome news for Brother Derek, who enters the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby as the controlling speed in an expected field of six. Entries were scheduled to be drawn Wednesday morning. Brother Derek galloped 1 1/2 miles Tuesday at Santa Anita, and his trainer, Dan Hendricks, said "everything is normal, good, and ready to go."

The softened pace scenario for Brother Derek will make things easier for bettors attacking the $1 million guaranteed pick six pool Saturday. The Santa Anita Derby (2:42 p.m. Pacific) will go as race 6 on an 11-race card, and is the first leg of the pick six. Brother Derek may be the shortest price in the sequence.

Before the defection of Fast Parade, Santa Anita linemaker Jeff Tufts said he planned to open Brother Derek (Alex Solis to ride) at 4-5. A. P. Warrior (Corey Nakatani) would start as second choice on Tufts's line at 7-2, with Sacred Light (Aaron Gryder) and Point Determined (Rafael Bejarano) both about 4-1. Indy Wildcat (Tyler Baze) and Wildfang (Omar Berrios) will be the highest prices on the line. Brother Derek, despite winning 5 of 7, has been favored only twice.

Without an apparent pace rival, Brother Derek should be clear. Although he pulled hard and was not relaxed pressing the pace in the Grade 2 Santa Catalina, that was his first start in seven weeks, and Hendricks said he believes Brother Derek "should be a little more settled this time. He's not as fresh; I've been able to train him a little more."

Another rainstorm arrived Tuesday, and though track superintendent Steve Wood expected two inches to fall, he said the forecast for the weekend was no more rain.

Sweet Fourty earns vacation

Sweet Fourty overcame an awful lot to win the $250,000 Sunland Oaks by a half-length last Saturday, and trainer Jeff Mullins will give the 3-year-old filly plenty of time to recover. She deserves it.

"We probably asked her to do a little more than she was ready to do," Mullins said. "She's going to be a little knocked out; it'll take her a while to get over it."

The Sunland Oaks was Sweet Fourty's first start since finishing second to Balance more than four months ago, a layoff caused by an abscess in her mouth. She won despite an abbreviated pattern of only four works, and Mullins doubts she would rebound in time for the Kentucky Oaks.

"I haven't thought about it, but I don't think there is any way she could make it," he said.

Mullins will not run a horse in this year's Santa Anita Derby after winning the last three years with Buzzards Bay, Castledale, and Buddy Gil.

"This might be a good year to sit out; it looks to me like [Dan Hendricks] has a pretty nice horse," Mullins said, referring to Brother Derek.

Tough spot for Sweet Return

Sweet Return will enter the Grade 2 Arcadia Mile on Saturday with credentials second to none. But the three-time Grade 1 winner will be racing for the first time since he cracked a splint bone in October, and though Sweet Return has won seven races and $1.5 million from 28 starts, the question remains - can he fire off a six-month layoff?

"I think he's pretty fit," trainer Ron McAnally said, adding one caution. "He is not a good work horse, though; he might get a little tired."

Sweet Return was assigned top weight of 120 pounds, while Frank Kilroe Mile winner Milk It Mick is the second topweight at 117. The field for the Arcadia is expected to include Becrux, Capitano, Chinese Dragon, Helm Bank, Runaway Dancer, Silent Name, and Terroplane.

Purrfectly Fitting out until fall

Purrfectly Fitting, the 3-year-old filly whose March 30 allowance win seemingly set her up for the $200,000 Melair Stakes on April 30 at Hollywood Park, will instead be out six months. Trainer Jim Cassidy said the filly cracked a front cannon bone in the race, had a screw inserted into the break Friday morning, and will not return until the fall Oak Tree meet. Purrfectly Fitting earned an 82 Beyer in the allowance win.

The day after the filly got hurt, the Cassidy-trained 3-year-old Tent cracked a hind cannon bone in a workout. He had two screws inserted into the break, and also will return in fall. Cassidy is hoping for better luck Saturday with Milk It Mick and Helm Bank in the Arcadia; Moscow Burning in the $98,000 American Beauty Handicap at a mile on turf for older fillies and mares; and Gold Silk in the Grade 3 Providencia at a mile on turf for 3-year-old fillies.