03/26/2009 11:00PM

Crown hopes bloom for Feisty Suances


ARCADIA, Calif. - Feisty Suances is getting closer to a start in a Triple Crown race with each passing week.

On March 14, Feisty Suances finished second to heavy favorite Pioneerof the Nile in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes, his first start in a graded stakes. Friday, owner Jed Cohen paid a $6,000 nomination fee to make Feisty Suances eligible for the Triple Crown.

Saturday, Feisty Suances can justify that investment when he starts in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby against three of the top 3-year-olds in California - Chocolate Candy, Pioneerof the Nile, and The Pamplemousse.

Cohen already knows where he will be if Feisty Suances pulls an upset in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.

"If he wins, the interviews will be in the intensive care unit," he said.

Cohen and trainer Darrell Vienna are not thinking of the Kentucky Derby, at least not this week. Cohen is more interested in starting Feisty Suances in the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for statebred 3-year-olds at Hollywood Park on April 25 and then considering a start in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 16.

The Santa Anita Derby remains the immediate goal. Bred in California by Cohen's Red Baron's Barn, Feisty Suances has won 3 of 6 starts and $124,820. He is by Suances, a stallion that Cohen stands.

Feisty Suances won his first three starts - a maiden claimer, a starter allowance and an allowance race for statebreds last year. But he has lost his last three starts - a second in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes in December, a fourth in the California Derby in January, and the runner-up finish in the San Felipe.

Feisty Suances emerged from the California Derby loss with a minor leg injury and started in the San Felipe at less than full fitness, Cohen said.

"We had to back off on him," Cohen said. "We weren't disgraced by having lost to [Pioneerof the Nile] by a length and a quarter under those circumstances."

Thursday, Feisty Suances worked a half-mile in 48.40 seconds.

"Darrell said he worked very well and this morning's report is that you wouldn't know he did anything," Cohen said Friday.

Feisty Suances is one of five probable starters in the Santa Anita Derby, which is run over 1 1/8 miles. Jockey Victor Espinoza has the mount on Feisty Suances, replacing David Flores, who will ride out of town on Saturday.

The Santa Anita Derby field also is expected include Mr. Hot Stuff, who was third behind The Pamplemousse in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes on Feb. 28. Bob Baffert, who trains Pioneerof the Nile, is considering starting Life Goes On, who won a maiden special weight race over a mile on March 19.

Gallant Son, a four-time stakes winner, is a candidate for the Santa Anita Derby or the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne on the same day. Gallant Son won three stakes at Emerald Downs last summer and fall and his turf debut in the Pasadena Stakes here on March 15.

Regardless of how Feisty Suances runs in the Santa Anita Derby, he has come along way since winning a $40,000 claiming race for maidens last September.

"Isn't that something?" Cohen said. "He's not going to disgrace us. He's getting better. Who knows?"

Zensational pops and stops

There will be no Triple Crown for Zensational after he finished second to Quindici Man in a one-mile optional claimer on Friday.

Sent off at 1-5, Zensational set a torrid pace of 22.37 and 44.92 and led by as much as 10 lengths before fading in deep stretch and losing by 1 1/2 lengths. Quindici Man ($33.60) ran a mile in 1:38.93.

Zensational scored a sharp win in a maiden race on Feb. 21, and was making just the third start of his career on Friday. Ridden by Garrett Gomez, Zensational tore off to an early lead and led by seven lengths after a quarter-mile.

"No two-turn races for a while," trainer Bob Baffert said of short-term plans for Zensational. "We'll regroup. There is ability there. With time, he'll do it."

Quindici Man, who was ridden by Joel Rosario, won for the third time in his nine-race career. He was last of four on the first turn and trailed by 14 lengths with a quarter-mile remaining.

"That was fun," trainer Craig Lewis said. "He ran his race and the other horse was pretty rank."

Lewis has no grand plans for Quindici Man, who is owned by Dick Scibelli.

"He is improving dramatically, but they were kind of staggering," Lewis said.

First juvenile race in the books

Turbo Time won the first race for 2-year-olds in Southern California in Thursday's first race, and trainer Walther Solis said the gelding will run in the $70,000 Willard Proctor Memorial Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park on June 3. The Proctor is the first stakes for 2-year-olds in Southern California.

Thursday, Turbo Time won a two-furlong maiden race for statebreds by a head, outfinishing Miss Dubai. Turbo Time ($3.80) was timed in 21.97 seconds under jockey Danny Sorenson.

"We were looking forward to this," Solis said.

Turbo Time is owned by a partnership that includes Terry Lovingier, who bred the gelding. Turbo Time is by Nineeleven, a sprint-oriented sire by Phone Trick.

Bejarano takes aim at Gomez

Jockey Rafael Bejarano won three consecutive races on Thursday to move within seven of leader Garrett Gomez.

The way the jockeys' schedules play out through the end of the meeting on April 19, Bejarano has a chance to catch Gomez, who had won 79 races.

Gomez is not riding at Santa Anita this weekend because of stakes mounts in Florida and New Mexico. Gomez will ride at Santa Anita on Wednesday and Thursday, but will ride primarily at Keeneland in Kentucky beginning on Friday.

Bejarano is not expected to travel in coming weeks. Bejarano has won the last five major riding titles in Southern California, a streak that began at the 2007-08 Santa Anita winter-spring meeting. He also won titles at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting, Del Mar, Oak Tree at Santa Anita, and Hollywood Park fall meetings, all in 2008.