11/23/2006 12:00AM

Crested may awaken in derby

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By STEVE ANDERSEN

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - A touch of good fortune may be all that is keeping Crested out of the winner's circle after a stakes race.

Three times since August, Crested has run well in stakes but come up short, finishing fourth twice and second in the other race, the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby in Chicago on Oct. 14.

That last race left trainer Wally Dollase certain that Crested is on the verge of a breakthrough performance in Sunday's $500,000 Hollywood Derby at Hollywood Park.

"He should have won the race at Hawthorne," Dollase said. "He got stopped a sixteenth from the finish and made up a lot of ground."

Dollase's daughter, Aimee, an assistant trainer, describes Crested as "a sleeper," and says that he is "better than he looks on paper."

Owned by the Horizon Stable, Crested has won 2 of 7 starts, a maiden race in England last year and an allowance race at Churchill Downs in June, his U.S. debut. Crested was purchased for approximately $190,000 at a sale in England last fall, Dollase said. Last year, he raced for the Maktoum family's Godolphin Stable.

Following the win at Churchill, Crested finished fourth in two stakes at Saratoga, including the Grade 3 Saranac Stakes when he stumbled at the start and raced at the back of the field until the final furlong.

In the Hollywood Derby, Crested will face his toughest test. The Grade 1 race over 1 1/4 miles on turf has drawn an outstanding field of 11, including Oak Tree Derby winner Dark Islander, the multiple stakes winner Showing Up, the Irish invader Ivan Denisovich, and Santa Anita Derby winner Brother Derek.

Dollase has enlisted top jockey Victor Espinoza to ride Crested, and insists that the gelding fits in a Grade 1 field.

"He's improving all the time, and the further the better," Dollase said. "I wouldn't be in there if I didn't think he belonged."

Nakatani sore after spill

Jockey Corey Nakatani took off his mounts on Thursday after being involved in a gruesome spill after the finish of Wednesday's fifth race.

Gajeema, Nakatani's mount, broke down after finishing ninth in a one-mile turf race for 2-year-olds. Gajeema was euthanized, track officials said. Nakatani was on the ground for a few minutes before walking off under his own power.

Nakatani took off on Thursday complaining of soreness, but said he hoped to ride on Friday. He is booked to ride Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Thor's Echo in the Frank De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel on Saturday.

"Anytime you take a tumble like that, you're stiff and sore," he said on Thursday. "Thank goodness, nothing was broken. I'll take today off and stay with my wife and family. I'll get these kinks out of me."

Through Wednesday, Nakatani had seven wins at the meeting, tying him for eighth in the standings.

Sunday, Nakatani rides top contender Beautyandthebeast in the $500,000 Matriarch Stakes for fillies and mares over a mile on turf. Beautyandthebeast won the Grade 2 Las Palmas Handicap at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting last month.

The Matriarch Stakes drew 15 entries but will be limited to 14 starters. Aside from Beautyandthebeast, the top contenders are the entry of Price Tag and Mirabilis, both stakes winners this year; Mea Domina, who won the Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap at Del Mar in September; and Society Hostess, who is undefeated in four starts since joining trainer Christophe Clement's stable earlier this year.

Bayakoa possibility for Foxysox

Foxysox, the winner of three turf stakes for 3-year-old fillies earlier this year, was not entered in the Matriarch. Trainer Carla Gaines and owner Warren Williamson are considering the $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on the main track on Dec. 3 for Foxysox's next start.

Foxysox has made all 13 of her starts on turf. She finished 10th in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 14 after a poor start.

Cheroot wires field in On Trust

Cheroot, who had come close to winning a stakes several times in the last year, finally won one in Thursday's $100,000 On Trust Handicap for California-breds at Hollywood Park.

Ridden by Martin Pedroza, Cheroot ($8.40) led throughout the 7 1/2 furlongs, winning by a length over El Don. Old Man River finished third in the field of seven that was reduced by four scratches.

Cheroot was timed in 1:28.96. He set early fractions of 23.40 and 46.58 seconds without being pressured, and repelled a challenge from Areyoutalkintome in early stretch. Areyoutalkintome, who finished 13th in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4, faded to finish fourth.

Cheroot has won 6 of 23 starts and $431,401 for owner-breeder Charlotte Wrather.

Baffert's first $110 winner

Law Breaker's upset win at 54-1 in Wednesday's fifth race may have been a milestone for trainer Bob Baffert. Thursday, Baffert said he could not recall a horse of his paying $110 to win.

"I never even had a Quarter Horse pay that much," Baffert said. "It's a record."

Owned by Hal and Patti Earnhardt, Law Breaker led throughout the one-mile turf race, scoring by a nose under Aaron Gryder.

Through Wednesday, Baffert has had a relatively quiet November at Hollywood Park, winning three races. He is tied for eighth in the standings.

Baffert will have a stakes runner next weekend in Louisiana when Malt Magic starts in the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes on Dec. 1.

Owned by Zayat Stables, Malt Magic finished sixth in the Norfolk Breeders' Cup Stakes at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting and 12th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.