03/23/2007 12:00AM

Court proves he's capable in California


ARCADIA, Calif. - On Friday morning, two days before Jon Court was scheduled to receive the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in a ceremony at Santa Anita, he had yet to sit down to write a speech. But it was very much on Court's mind.

"Maybe I ought to put together some notes," he said. "I've got more to say than probably the allotted time."

Winning was a surprise for Court, one of the most meticulously prepared riders in Southern California. He has left very little for chance in his career, which has covered 26 years, more than 3,000 winners and major stakes wins throughout the United States and even Japan.

For Court, 47, the Woolf Award is the latest accomplishment in a career boosted by a move to California in 2004. The Woolf Award, voted upon by jockeys throughout the nation as a reflection of accomplishment and character, comes during a season in which Court has already won a Grade 1 in the La Brea Stakes aboard Downthedustyroad.

A former leading rider at several tracks in the Midwest and South, Court was tied for seventh at the Santa Anita meeting through Thursday. Although he has not contended for a riding title since moving to California, Court has become a fixture on this circuit.

"I spent a lot of my career at the B-level tracks and I've done well at the A-level tracks," he said. "I feel confident. It's all about the horse that you get on. I've been doing this 26 years and I try to be as alert as I can to be able to respond."

Court is booked to ride Phar to Win in Sunday's March Madness Starter Handicap. Phar to Win, a gelding Court rode to victory in the California Cup Starter Handicap last November, was also entered in Saturday's San Luis Rey Handicap, but is more likely to start on Sunday.

Riding in Southern California has changed Court's lifestyle. He no longer has to move from track to track, like he did in the Midwest, since Southern California races virtually year-round in Los Angeles.

"I really appreciate the California circuit," he said. "Even though it can be a grind year in and year out racing in the same place, I can build a stronger bond with some of the riders. When I was in Kentucky, Florida, and Oaklawn, I couldn't do that since we were always moving every few months."

Number of derby prospects expands

The list of candidates for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7 is growing.

New to the list of probable starters are Sam P., who was second in the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes on March 3; Black Seventeen, the third-place finisher in an allowance race on March 7; and Court the King, who was fourth in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows on March 10.

Also expected to run are Boutrous, Bwana Bull, King of the Roxy, Liquidity, Song of Navarone, and Tiago.

Court the King closed from last in a field of seven to finish 4 1/2 lengths behind Bwana Bull in the El Camino Real Derby.

"He bled a little up there," trainer John Sadler said.

The El Camino Real Derby was Court the King's stakes debut. He won an allowance race over a mile at Santa Anita in early February.

Black Seventeen has yet to start in a stakes. He was considered for the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 14 until Ravel, the winner of the Sham Stakes in February, was declared from the Santa Anita Derby earlier this week because of injury.

"With Ravel not here, it changes the whole picture," trainer Brian Koriner said.

Balance will be carefully managed

Balance, the winner of the La Canada Stakes and Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap earlier at this meeting, may not start again until May, trainer David Hofmans said.

Hofmans said that he and owners John and Jerry Amerman want to campaign the 4-year-old Balance sparingly in advance of the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Monmouth Park in October. One option is the Grade 2 Louisville BC Handicap at Churchill Downs on May 4.

Hofmans said the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 7 is "too soon."

Balance won the third Grade 1 race of her career in the Santa Margarita, which was her first win at that level against older fillies and mares. She rallied from fourth to win by a half-length over Ermine, overcoming traffic problems on the second turn.

"I thought she'd run good," Hofmans said. "I didn't think she'd run that good."

B. Thoughtful next for Getback Time

Getback Time is bound for the $150,000 B. Thoughtful Stakes over seven furlongs for California-bred females at Hollywood Park on April 29 after winning her second consecutive allowance race against open company on Thursday.

Ridden by Corey Nakatani, Getback Time ($7) was always near the front in Thursday's race over seven furlongs. She took the lead turning for home and was clear through the stretch, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Mazella in 1:22.31

"I think she's getting better and better," said trainer Rafael Becerra. "There were some nice fillies in this race."

Getback Time has won 6 of 13 starts and $335,760. The victory on Thursday was worth $49,140, including statebred bonuses.

The B. Thoughtful is part of the California Gold Rush program for statebreds. The race could attract Gn. Group Meeting and River's Prayer, who both have won stakes in the last six months.

* Kip Deville, the winner of the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile here on March 3, worked six furlongs in 1:13.80 at Hollywood Park on Friday. Trained by Richard Dutrow, Kip Deville, 4, is expected to start in the $300,000 Shoemaker BC Mile at Hollywood on May 28.