04/16/2009 12:00AM

Desert Code trying to bounce back


ARCADIA, Calif. - After an excellent start to the year, the first half of April has been rough on Desert Code.

A 5-year-old horse, Desert Code won the Grade 3 Daytona Handicap at Santa Anita in February, but finished last of eight in the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap at a mile on turf on April 4. The cause of the poor performance was a foot abscess, said trainer David Hofmans.

The abscess subsided quickly, Hofmans said on Thursday, allowing Desert Code to resume training after missing two days. How well Desert Code has recovered will be better known after Saturday's $100,000 San Simeon Handicap at about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course.

"It was two days and it was gone," Hofmans said of the abscess. "Sometimes they hang around."

The hillside has already proven to be Desert Code's favorite course. He won the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint in a 36-1 upset on the hillside last October, and has won 5 of 7 starts on the course. He has just two other wins in his 21-race career.

Owned by Tarabilla Farms, Desert Code totes high weight of 122 pounds in the Grade 3 San Simeon Handicap. The race has drawn a field of nine, and there are several runners capable of beating Desert Code if he has a bad day or has not recovered from the abscess.

Mr Gruff or Prussian can win. Mr Gruff is making his stakes debut, having won 2 of 3 starts on the hillside turf course at this meeting - a maiden race and an allowance race. In between, he was beaten a nose in an allowance race on the hillside.

Hofmans envisions Desert Code and Mr Gruff running near each other on the lead.

Prussian, a graded stakes winner at Woodbine in 2007, won his 2009 debut in an optional claimer on the hillside turf course on April 1, storming from off the pace to win by 1 1/4 lengths. The San Simeon will be his first stakes appearance since a second in the Majestic Light Stakes at Saratoga last August.

The race is the U.S. debut of El Merito, a multiple stakes winner from Chile, and the comeback of Tiz West, who won two stakes for 3-year-olds last year - the La Puente Stakes and Grade 3 Cinema Handicap.