11/04/2009 1:00AM

Ever a Friend back in action


ARCADIA, Calif. - When Ever a Friend was taken out of training with an ankle injury in the summer of 2008, trainer Mike Mitchell insisted the gelding would get ample time to recover.

Even Mitchell did not expect the layoff to last until November 2009. Thursday at Santa Anita, Ever a Friend, the winner of the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita in March 2008, finally returns to racing in an optional claimer over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course.

"He's a lovely horse, and we've given him a lot of time," Mitchell said. "I really wanted him for the Breeders' Cup, but we ran out of time."

Ever a Friend had surgery to removed a bone chip from an ankle last year. A 6-year-old gelding, Ever a Friend was claimed for $62,500 in December 2007 and immediately rose through the class levels.

In his first start for Mitchell, Ever a Friend won the Impressive Luck II Handicap on the hillside turf course, then the Kilroe, and was second in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park in May 2008.

Mitchell has equally big plans this fall, specifically the $300,000 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park on Nov. 25.

"I nominated him to the Citation on how he does in this race," Mitchell said.

Thursday's seventh race includes several horses making comebacks. Muny, the winner of the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby in 2008, will be making his first start since finishing seventh in the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes on Jan. 17. Run It has not started since winning the Alcatraz Stakes at Golden Gate Fields in May. Machismo, stakes-placed twice here last January, finished eighth in the Golden Shaheen in Dubai last March.

The race also includes Talkin to Mom Roo, who was second in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 8; El Gato Malo, a four-time stakes winner; and Tenga Cat, who is pre-entered in the BC Turf Sprint on Saturday.

Tenga Cat was not expected to get a berth in the Turf Sprint, leading trainer Ron Ellis to aim for Thursday's race.

"I think his chances are minimal of getting in," Ellis said. "This is probably a good spot."

Tenga Cat finished behind Turf Sprint contender California Flag in stakes at Del Mar and here in his last two starts.