03/19/2008 11:00PM

Charmo returns in Hernandez on hillside


ARCADIA, Calif. - Charmo's success has never truly equaled his potential. After winning the first stakes of his career in the Grade 2 San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate Fields in 2006, Charmo has compiled a five-race losing streak.

Charmo resumes his career after a layoff of nearly 10 months in Saturday's $75,000 Joe Hernandez Stakes on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita. Trainer Julio Canani is hopeful that the race, run over about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf, will end Charmo's losing streak and lead to a return to the San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate Fields next month.

"He's doing very good," Canani said. "Finally, he's very healthy and he's very sound. Knock on wood. He's been training easily. I like the way he's come back sound."

Owned by Terry Lanni and Mercedes Stable, Charmo has won 4 of 27 starts. He won 4 of his first 6 starts in this country in 2005 and 2006 leading up to the 2006 San Francisco Mile. While he has been best at a mile on turf, Charmo has run well on the hillside turf course, winning a maiden race over the course and distance in his U.S. debut in October 2005.

Charmo is a closer who should have a pace to chase in the Joe Hernandez Stakes. The field of seven includes the speedy Tenga Cat, who was fourth in the Daytona Handicap on the hillside turf course on Feb. 17, and Desert Code, the winner of the Baldwin Stakes on the hillside turf course in 2007.

Towzee will be coupled with Macduff, since both are owned by David Bienstock and Chuck Winner. Trained by Paddy Gallagher, Towzee was second in an optional claimer over about 6o1/2 furlongs on turf on Feb. 9, losing by a nose after closing from seventh in a field of 11.

"He seems to be improving a little bit with each race," Gallagher said. "We thought we'd take a shot in a stakes and see."

The race favorite is likely to be the unlucky Night Chapter. Owned by trainer Bobby Frankel and Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre, Night Chapter was a troubled sixth in the Daytona Handicap last month. It has been a recurring theme in the recent career of the 7-year-old horse, who had troubled trips in the Morvich and Hollywood Turf Express handicaps for turf sprinters last fall.

Young winner to get a break

Little Yogi became the first 2-year-old winner of 2008 in Southern California on Thursday, scoring a half-length victory in a two-furlong race in the day's first race.

The early season win may earn Little Yogi a quick vacation. "She's tiny," said Blake Heap, an assistant to trainer Wesley Ward. "We'll probably turn her out."

Little Yogi ($17) led throughout, finishing in 21.24 seconds under jockey Julio Garcia, who recently resumed riding in Southern California. Little Yogi started from post 9 but drifted to the inside through the race while racing clear of rivals. Jockeys do not carry whips in two-furlong race for 2-year-olds, and horses are not allowed to wear blinkers.

Ward also started Dulce Maria, the 6-5 favorite. Starting from post 2 in the field of nine, Dulce Maria finished sixth.

"She kind of broke slow," Heap said. "When you're on the inside, anything can happen.

"People asked me, 'Which one do you like,' " Heap said. "I said, 'One's quick and the other's fast.' "

Little Yogi's win was worth $21,600.

Midnight Lute registers bullet workout

Midnight Lute, the champion sprinter of 2007, worked six furlongs from the gate in 1:11 on Thursday, the fastest of 22 recorded works at the distance.

Unraced since finishing second in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct last November, Midnight Lute is being considered for the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Handicap here on April 5, the Gradeo1 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct on Aprilo5, or the Grade 2 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Stakes at Keeneland on April 12, according to trainer Bob Baffert.

"I've got all the options," Baffert said.

Desormeaux to ride Georgie Boy

Jockey Kent Desormeaux has gained the mount on Georgie Boy for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 5, trainer Kathy Walsh said on Thursday.

Desormeaux will be the third rider for Georgie Boy in as many races this year. Georgie Boy was ridden by Rafael Bejerano in the San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 10, the gelding's first start since winning the Del Mar Futurity last September. Bejarano injured his back earlier this month, resulting in Michael Baze riding Georgie Boy to a win in the San Felipe Stakes on March 15.

Walsh said the decision to replace Baze with Desormeaux was a "tough call, but it was a mutual decision" with owner-breeder George Schwary. "Michael is a fine rider and did a good job in the San Felipe, but Mr. Schwary felt a more experienced rider was in order."

Baze gets three-day ban

Baze will serve a three-day suspension from Monday through Friday for an incident in the eighth race last Sunday.

Baze, 20, was cited for altering course without sufficient clearance in the stretch aboard Kinsale King, who won the six-furlong maiden special weight race. Kinsale King won the race by 1 1/2 lengths over El Legado, who was forced out and steadied in early stretch. The stewards made no change to the order of finish.

Through Monday, Baze was fifth in the standings with 31 winners.