05/06/2008 12:00AM

Distance and timing lure El Gato Malo


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - El Gato Malo, who had been under consideration for the Preakness Stakes, instead will make his next start in the Grade 3, $400,000 Lone Star Derby on Saturday, said his trainer, Craig Dollase. The horse is a strong addition to a prospective field of 13 led by Samba Rooster, the runner-up in the Grade 2 Lexington.

El Gato Malo is scheduled to fly in from his Hollywood Park base on Thursday. A two-time stakes winner at a mile, he finished fifth as the favorite in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in his last start April 5. Dollase said the Lone Star Derby's 1 1/16-mile trip and the timing of the race were reasons to target it instead of the Preakness, which will be run at 1 3/16 miles on May 17.

"The distance is right up his alley, we know that for sure," Dollase said. "It's a race to try to get him back on track, and it looks like a good spot on the calendar right now.

"The horse is ready to go. He's had some real good works. Since the Santa Anita Derby, he's been fitted with blinkers and he's trained forwardly."

Dollase said El Gato Malo, who will race in blinkers for the first time Saturday, is to be ridden by Rafael Bejarano. The horse won the first three starts of his career, including the $75,000 Gold Rush at Golden Gate and the Grade 3 San Rafael at Santa Anita. He will be making his first start on dirt Saturday; his five career starts have all come on synthetic surfaces in California.

"This will be a new challenge," said Dollase. "He trains on it very well on our training track here at Hollywood Park, but until they go out there and prove they can run on it . . . I guess this is a good way of finding out."

El Gato Malo, a son of El Corredor, is owned by West Point Thoroughbreds. He will seek to give Dollase his second major stakes win at the Lone Star meet. Last month, Dollase sent out Monterey Jazz to an eight-length victory in the Grade 3, $300,000 Texas Mile.

El Gato Malo's rivals are expected to include Limestone Edge, My Pal Charlie, Real Appeal, and Texas Wildcatter, all of whom flew in Monday aboard a flight that originated in New York and came through Kentucky. Samba Rooster and Leonides arrived here Tuesday aboard a flight from Southern California.

Isabull, who was third in the Grade 2 Rebel at Oaklawn, is vanning in from his Arlington Park base. He was to arrive here Wednesday, said his trainer, Steve Hobby. Tim Doocy has the mount in the Lone Star Derby.

Richard Migliore will ride Leonides, said trainer Vladimir Cerin. Jamie Theriot has the mount on My Pal Charlie, according to trainer Al Stall Jr. Corey Lanerie will be aboard Limestone Edge, said trainer Bob Hess Jr.

Others expected for the Lone Star Derby include Fort Apache, Golden Yank, Ide Like a Double, King's Silver Son, and Poni Colada.

Samba Rooster gets blinkers, Gomez

Samba Rooster is the probable favorite for the Lone Star Derby off his Lexington effort April 19, for which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 97. Garrett Gomez rode the horse that afternoon and has the call for the Lone Star Derby, trainer Bob Baffert said Tuesday.

Baffert also said that Samba Rooster will add blinkers on Saturday. Samba Rooster was a private purchase following a runner-up finish in a first-level allowance at Gulfstream Park on March 30. He is a son of Songandaprayer, and he won his maiden at Gulfstream in February.

Swains News to Dallas Turf Cup?

Swains News, who won his third straight race in an optional claiming turf route last Friday at Lone Star, will be nominated to the Grade 3, $200,000 Dallas Turf Cup, trainer Pat Mouton said Tuesday. The race will be run May 26. Swains News won at a mile on Friday, and covered the distance in a sharp 1:34.74 to earn a career-best Beyer of 93.

He is out of the stakes-winning mare Azireprice, making him a half-brother to Trackerman, who won a first-level allowance turf route here Sunday. Mouton also trains Trackerman, and said that as a long-term goal, there are some 3-year-old turf stakes for the horse at Louisiana Downs.

* King of Speed, Diggy Fresh, and Objective, one-two-three in a $35,000 optional claimer on turf here April 18, meet at the same level Thursday night in the featured eighth at Lone Star.