09/27/2005 12:00AM

Brother Derek stepping up


ARCADIA, Calif. - The final week of the Del Mar meeting, trainer Dan Hendricks had the choice of running Brother Derek in the Del Mar Futurity or in the I'm Smokin against California-breds two days earlier. Hendricks took what seemed the path of least resistance, running Brother Derek in the I'm Smokin, and he has been angry at himself ever since.

"It didn't work out, and I take the blame," Hendricks said.

Hendricks and Brother Derek get a shot at redemption Sunday, when they take on the best of the Del Mar Futurity runners, including the winner, Stevie Wonderboy, in the Grade 2, $200,000 Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting. It will be Brother Derek's first start around two turns and first against graded stakes company.

Brother Derek defeated maidens in his debut at Hollywood Park on May 14, then did not race again until the I'm Smokin on Sept. 5. He broke slowly from the rail in the six-furlong race and faced a rocketship in Bro Lo. Brother Derek wound up third.

"He was overcooked for his last race," Hendricks said while watching workouts Tuesday morning at Santa Anita. "He needed every work to make that race. He was working fast. And then he went six furlongs against a super sprinter. When he came out of the gate, he ducked in. If I'd have waited and run him seven-eighths in the Futurity, he might have done well, the way the race came up. But I thought running against the smaller field would be the easier race.

"He's fresh for this race, and his coat looks good," he said. "Is he good enough? We'll find out."

The Norfolk, at 1 1/16 miles, is also expected to attract Del Mar Futurity runners Stevie Wonderboy (first), Jealous Profit (third), and A.P. Warrior (sixth). A.P. Warrior zipped five furlongs in 58 seconds on Tuesday morning at Santa Anita. The time was the fastest of 31 at the distance. Bob and John, who defeated maidens by 11 1/2 lengths going one mile at Del Mar on Sept. 5, is also scheduled to run.

Runaway Dancer tunes up

In addition to Brother Derek, Hendricks will have a second chance in a stakes race Sunday, when Runaway Dancer competes in the Grade 1, $250,000 Clement Hirsch Turf Championship at 1 1/4 miles. On Tuesday morning, Runaway Dancer worked an easy five furlongs on turf in 1:05.80 around the dogs - orange cones used to protect the inner portion of the course.

Runaway Dancer was fifth most recently in the Del Mar Handicap behind Leprechaun Kid and Laura's Lucky Boy, both of whom are scheduled to run in the Hirsch. His late run is often at the mercy of the early pace.

"The winner snuck away on the first turn, and that was the race," Hendricks said. "They walked on the lead. I was the only horse who closed in the race."

Others scheduled to run in the Hirsch include Continental Red, Exterior, Fourty Niners Son, and Whilly. Continental Red worked three furlongs on the turf in 36 seconds Tuesday. Fourty Niners Son went six furlongs on turf in 1:13.80 with exercise rider Marcelino Olguin.

In his last start, Fourty Niners Son was third after a rough trip in the Arlington Million, which was won by Powerscourt. Trainer Neil Drysdale said Fourty Niners Son was uncomfortable with the yielding course the first part of the race.

"Then he got boxed in. He was unlucky," said Drysdale. "And Powerscourt loved the ground."

Sadler high on Victory Spy

Victory Spy breezed home the easiest of winners in her debut at Del Mar on Sept. 5 and will try to step up and beat a first-level allowance field in Thursday's sixth race.

Victory Spy, a 3-year-old filly by Victory Gallop, won like a good thing in her debut, but was a tepid 5-1. Her trainer, John Sadler, said he thinks he knows why.

"The only reason she was that price is because Sadler's first-out numbers are so bad. It's a daunting number," Sadler said. "But sometimes the really good horses just forget the stats. Traditionally I don't train to win first time out. She won pretty easy first time. She's a real runner."

Victory Spy's main rival will be Tempting Date, who has won both her starts in races restricted to Cal-breds.

Ochoa, Santiago back in town

Juan Ochoa, an apprentice rider who rode briefly here before competing most recently at Philadelphia Park and Monmouth Park, has returned to Southern California to try to garner business on a circuit devoid of apprentice riders now that David Cohen is a journeyman.

"He's the only bug here right now, and he's a seven-pound bug," said Susie McBrayer, who represents Ochoa, 22, and also is the agent for jockey Kerwin John. "There's not a lot of room for riders, but there's room for a bug. He won't ride until the weekend. He's just working horses this morning."

Also back in town is Javier Santiago, who was a sensation in the spring of 2004 after arriving from Puerto Rico, but returned to Puerto Rico more than a year ago. Santiago won the 2004 Louisiana Derby on Wimbledon, but subsequently fell out of favor with Wimbledon's trainer, Bob Baffert. Santiago also became a pariah in the jockeys' room after being involved in an accident in the summer of 2004 at Del Mar in which Alex Solis fractured his back.

"He will begin riding here on Friday," said agent Tony Matos, a native of Puerto Rico who represented Santiago last year and is also the agent for Victor Espinoza. "He was uncomfortable here last year because he did not know English. He went to Puerto Rico, learned English, won a lot of races, and wanted to come back. He's coming back to stay."

* Jockey Jose Valdivia Jr., who is recuperating from knee surgery, was not cleared by doctors Tuesday to resume riding. "We're now shooting for Oct. 12," said his agent, Brian Beach.

* Espinoza will be at Hoosier Park on Friday to ride Pussycat Doll for Baffert in the Indiana Breeders' Cup Oaks. On Saturday, he will be at Belmont Park to ride Imperialism in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Happy Ticket in the Beldame Stakes.