04/30/2004 12:00AM

Cheiron, now a stakes winner, was a late bloomer for Mulhall


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The promising Cheiron, who won the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for California-breds at Hollywood Park on April 24, was very nearly a Saudi Arabian-bred.

In February 2001, Fortunee, Cheiron's dam, was being loaded onto a plane at Los Angeles International Airport bound for Saudi Arabia. Shortly before departure, she foaled Cheiron.

Instead of flying, Fortunee and her newborn colt were taken off the plane, put back onto a van, and sent to nearby Bradbury, where The Thoroughbred Corp., which owned the dam, kept its horses.

After the death of Prince Ahmed Salman, The Thoroughbred Corp.'s holdings were slowly dispersed, and Cheiron was sold as a yearling to the partnership of Mike Mulhall, Neil Papiano, and Steve Taub.

"He was ugly as a baby, but he's turned out to be a beautiful horse," trainer Kristin Mulhall said.

Cheiron's victory in the Snow Chief Stakes was the colt's richest win, his first in a stakes, and his third victory in nine starts. Ridden by Alex Solis, Cheiron rallied between horses in the stretch to score by 1 1/2 lengths over Don'tsellmeshort.

The Snow Chief win could lead to a start in the $1 million Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 15, Mulhall said. She cautioned on Friday that the decision hinged on how Imperialism fared in Saturday's Kentucky Derby. Since Taub owns Imperialism, Cheiron would not start in the Preakness Stakes if Imperialism were trying for the Triple Crown.

Cheiron was on the Triple Crown trail earlier this year, until he finished fourth in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita in March.

Cheiron has been a late-developing colt. By Maria's Mon, Cheiron needed five races to beat maidens. He finished a game second in his career debut at Del Mar last July, but subsequently bled, a problem that recurred last fall. His maiden win came against statebreds at Santa Anita in January.

"He was a bad bleeder, but I think we've got that taken care of," Mulhall said. "We've never lost faith in him."

If Cheiron is not sent to Maryland, he is likely to start in the $100,000 Affirmed Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on June 19, a prep to the $400,000 Swaps Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on July 10.

Mulhall also trains Cheiron's 2-year-old half-sister, Fortunate Event, who is by Event of the Year. The filly has been working at Hollywood Park and is nearing her career debut.

Being cautious has its pitfalls

Yearly Report, who won the $200,000 Melair Stakes on April 24, was sold to a partnership for $95,000 at the 2003 Barretts May sale of 2-year-olds in training. She was turned back to Golden Eagle Farm because of concerns about her stifles.

Had the sale been completed, Yearly Report would have been trained by Peter Eurton.

Eurton says he is not frustrated at the missed opportunity, but says he might be less critical when he inspects future juveniles at in-training sales.

"Now, I'll look at X-rays for fractures and chips," he said. "If they can get through all the training and get that far, why shouldn't they be able to handle it later?"

The Melair Stakes was Yearly Report's second stakes win, and her third win in four starts.

Walther Solis, the racing manager for Golden Eagle Farm, said Yearly Report will stay in California, but he had not discussed specific plans with trainer Bob Baffert. One obvious option is the $175,000 Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on June 12.

Solis said that Yearly Report was not considered a candidate for the Kentucky Oaks during the spring, and that missing that race on Friday could have a long-term benefit.

"When those fillies come back, they will be tired," he said, "and we'll have a fresh horse."