02/15/2008 1:00AM

Crown of Thorns goes slow, easy


ARCADIA, Calif. - Crown of Thorns, a leading California-based Triple Crown hopeful, worked six furlongs in 1:17.80 at Santa Anita on Friday over a synthetic track that several trainers felt played slow through the morning.

Crown of Thorns, working in company, recorded a time that equaled the slowest of 18 works at the distance. He is being prepared for the $200,000 Sham Stakes here on March 1.

"It was an easy work, all the way around," said Richard Mandella, who trains Crown of Thorns for B. Wayne Hughes. "He'll get a stiffer work next week. I wanted something long and easy."

A winner of 2 of 3 starts, Crown of Thorns won his stakes debut in the Robert Lewis Stakes here on Feb. 2. Prior to that race, he worked seven furlongs in 1:31.80.

Mandella postponed Crown of Thorns's workout from Thursday to Friday after rain fell on Thursday morning.

"I was scared because of the rain," Mandella said on Friday. "It turned out fantastic, but I put it off until today."

The track sustained approximately a quarter-inch of rain early Thursday, but the synthetic surface was able to absorb the moisture. The track lost 11 days of racing in January and early February when the track failed to drain because of rain. Earlier this month, the track underwent a five-day renovation to add polymers and fibers from the Australian synthetic surface Pro-Ride.

The surface was well-received in the first three days it was used for racing - from Feb. 9 through Monday - but was criticized by jockeys for being too hard on Wednesday. Maintenance crews conducted two renovation sessions on Wednesday - during the races and after racing. Trainers were complimentary of the surface on Thursday.

Mandella described the track as being in "good" shape on Friday. Overall, there were 108 recorded works on the synthetic main track.

Trainer Vladimir Cerin on Friday said the track "seems a little slow. It's not bad."

Jockey Jon Court said horses have been traveling well over the surface.

Pair of Sham probables breeze

Crown of Thorns was one of four prominent 3-year-olds to work on Friday. Pistol Pete Afleet, the winner of an allowance race here on Feb. 1, worked a half-mile in 48.60 seconds. At Hollywood Park, El Gato Malo, the undefeated winner of the San Rafael Stakes on Jan. 12, worked six furlongs in 1:11.80, the fastest of 19 works at the distance.

Both El Gato Malo and Pistol Pete Afleet are being pointed for the Sham.

At Santa Anita, Mandella worked Dixie Chatter three furlongs in 35 seconds, the fastest of 19 works at the distance. It was Dixie Chatter's first workout since returning to training earlier this winter. He won the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes here on Sept. 30.

Mullins agrees to begin suspension

Trainer Jeff Mullins will begin a 20-day suspension on Monday for an excessive level of the anesthetic mepivacaine found in one of his starters at Hollywood Park in 2006.

Mullins sought a stay in Los Angeles Superior Court, but the motion was denied earlier this week. At that point, Mullins said he decided to abandon any further appeals.

"If I'm going to serve the days there's no sense going any further," he said on Thursday.

During his suspension, Mullins said his stable will be directed by his assistant trainer, Rol Ayers.

The suspension was originally scheduled to begin on Friday, but Mullins said he reached an agreement with the California Horse Racing Board to postpone the suspension until Monday. He said it was unclear how many starters he would have during the suspension.

"We'll run what there are races for," he said.

The positive test was found in a post-race test taken from Rob's Coin at Hollywood Park in July 2006.

Mullins was given a 90-day suspension by administrative law judge David Rosenman, with 70 days stayed, provided that Mullins does not violate any California Horse Racing Board rules during a one-year probationary period. Rosenman's decision was adopted by the racing board earlier this year. The board had the option of adopting, modifying, or rejecting the administrative law judge's findings.

Mullins said he will travel to 2-year-olds in training sales during the suspension.

Mepivacaine is listed as a Class 2 drug, and is allowed to appear in postrace tests in levels up to 10 nanograms, according to racing board rules.

Hollendorfer doing well down south

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer had two wins on Thursday to solidify his place in the top 10 in the winter-spring trainer standings. Through Thursday, Hollendorfer had seven wins, leaving him in a tie for seventh. John Sadler and Doug O'Neill are tied for the lead with 14 wins.

The perennial leading trainer in Northern California, Hollendorfer won with Sunday Dress ($4.20) and Political High ($5) at Santa Anita on Thursday.

"We've made a commitment to run in Southern California," Hollendorfer said. "It seems to work out okay."

Hollendorfer's winners on Thursday are co-owned by one of his leading clients, George Todaro, who had three wins on the nine-race program. Todaro also owns High Stakes Silver ($16), the winner of Thursday's fourth race who is trained by Craig Dollase.

Hollendorfer has a starter for the meeting's biggest race, the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 1, with Heatseeker, the runner-up in the San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 9.

Buena Vista draws field of nine

Alexandra Rose and Trick's Pic, stakes winners in January, are the leading contenders in Monday's $150,000 Buena Vista Handicap over a mile on turf.

Alexandra Rose won her first stakes in the United States in the Grade 3 Monrovia Handicap over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course. Trick's Pic won the Grade 3 Tuzla Handicap over a mile on turf on Jan. 19.

The race has drawn nine fillies and mares, including Kris' Sis, who was third in the Grade 2 Palomar Handicap at Del Mar last September, and Black Mamba, who was second in the Grade 2 Dahlia Handicap at Hollywood Park in December.