04/23/2004 11:00PM

Cheiron captures Snow Chief

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - At the perfect time, trainer Kristin Mulhall's 3-year-old division is in perfect form.

Saturday, Cheiron won the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes at Hollywood Park, the top race on the California Gold Rush program for state-breds. This Saturday, Mulhall will have her first Kentucky Derby starter in Imperialism.

Mulhall watched Cheiron's win from a tack room on the backstretch at Churchill Downs.

She said she was nervous watching jockey Alex Solis weave his way between tiring rivals in early stretch before pulling away to win by 1 1-2 lengths.

Mulhall said The Preakness Stakes on May 17 is a possibility. "If he can get in, we might go there," she said.

Cheiron ($5.60) ran 1 1-8 miles in 1:48.78, setting a stakes record. The Hollywood Park main track played fast on Saturday, producing four stakes records.

Cheiron was sixth early, following Don'tsellmeshort, who set the early pace of 23.06 and 46.06 seconds. Don'tsellmeshort led by a length over Southern Outlaw and kept an advantage to the eighth pole.

Cheiron, who was sixth until early stretch, rallied between Don'tsellmeshort and Southern Outlaw in the final furlong.

"I was a little worried when he dropped to the inside," Mulhall said of Solis. "But it opened up."

Don'tsellmeshort held second, a nose in front of 24-1 Southern Outlaw. Cee Mister B, the second choice at 9-5, finished seventh in the field of eight.

Cheiron races for Michael Mulhall, Neil Papiano and Steve Taub and has won 3 of 9 starts and $305,880.