05/20/2008 11:00PM

Ever a Friend to run, then rest


NGLEWOOD, Calif. - Regardless of whether he wins or loses Monday's Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park, race favorite Ever a Friend will gain a vacation.

With an eye on the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting on Oct. 25, trainer Mike Mitchell said that Ever a Friend is unlikely to race this summer before resuming his career in the fall.

"I've got to give him some time," Mitchell said. "He hasn't had a break. He trains hard and every day he goes hard. You've got to try to keep a horse fresh."

Owned by Steve and Jeff Ustin and Dan Capen, Ever a Friend has won two stakes since being claimed for $62,500 at Hollywood Park last December. The 5-year-old gelding won his debut for his current connections in the Impressive Luck Handicap on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita on Dec. 31, his first stakes win, and won the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile by a convincing 3 3/4 lengths on March 1. The Kilroe was Ever a Friend's graded stakes debut.

Previously trained by Christophe Clement, Ever a Friend has won 5 of 18 starts and $378,668.

Mitchell said he expects Ever a Friend to run well on Monday. He cited a six-furlong workout in 1:11.40 last Monday as proof that Ever a Friend is approaching the Shoemaker Mile in top shape.

"He worked unbelievably the other day," Mitchell said. "He's going to run his best race."

Perfect Drift returning

The Shoemaker field will include Perfect Drift, the 9-year-old multi-millionaire, and Notional, who has struggled this spring in stakes in the Middle East and California.

It will not include El Roblar, the winner of the Inglewood Handicap who recently suffered an ankle injury.

Perfect Drift has not started since finishing fifth in an optional claimer at Churchill Downs last July. Now trained by Richard Mandella, Perfect Drift is winless in his last 15 starts, dating back to the Grade 2 Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park in July 2005.

Perfect Drift finished second by a nose in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs in June 2006. His last Grade 1 win came in the 2003 Stephen Foster.

Mandella has trained Perfect Drift since last fall. Owned by William Reed, Perfect Drift has won 11 of 46 starts and $4,680,691.

Reed "gave me instructions," Mandella said. "If the horse acted like he wanted to do it, go ahead. If not, retire him."

Trainer Doug O'Neill said that Notional will be ridden by Corey Nakatani.

The winner of two graded stakes and the runner-up in the Grade 1 Florida Derby in 2007, Notional will be making his second start in a Grade 1 on turf. He was last of 16 in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free on March 29, and he followed that performance with a last-place finish in a field of six in the $150,000 Tiznow Stakes here on April 27.

Owned by Paul Reddam, Notional was third in the Daytona Handicap on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita in February, his first start in more than 10 months.

"We're taking the blinkers off and going two turns," O'Neill said. "He ran a good third in his comeback race on the grass. This is in his backyard."

Another contender in the Shoemaker is Daytona, the winner of Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap over a mile on turf on April 5 and four other graded stakes in the last year. Also expected to run are Get Funky, Hyperbaric, Rebellion, and Thousand Words.

Monday's $250,000 Gamely Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on turf for fillies and mares will have a smaller field. The probable starters are Diamond Diva, Green Lyons, Lavender Sky, Precious Kitten, and Rutherienne.

Weighing Gold Cup for On the Acorn

If Ever a Friend wins the Shoemaker, Mitchell will have swept Hollywood Park's two leading turf races in May. Earlier this month, Mitchell won the $250,000 Jim Murray Handicap with On the Acorn, who was claimed for $40,000 in November 2006.

On the Acorn may start in the meeting's richest main-track race, the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup over 1 1/4 miles of Cushion Track on June 28. On the Acorn, 7, has never started on a synthetic surface.

"This might be a good time to try him in the Hollywood Gold Cup and see how he does," Mitchell said. "If it looks like a spot we don't want to go, we could wait and run him in the Sunset" Handicap on turf on July 13.

"I'd like the Gold Cup more if it were a mile and a half," Mitchell said. "He's always trained really well on the synthetic surface. He could like it or hate it."

Owned by Indizguys Stable, On the Acorn has earned $581,400 since being claimed.

If On the Acorn runs well in the Gold Cup, his focus could shift to main-track races, including the new $500,000 Breeders' Cup Dirt Marathon over 1 1/2 miles on the synthetic track at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

"If he runs well, we could consider that," Mitchell said.

El Gato Malo to run in Swaps<]strong>

El Gato Malo, the winner of the Lone Star Derby earlier this month, will make his next start in the $350,000 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood on July 12, trainer Craig Dollase said.

The Grade 2 Swaps Stakes over 1 1/8 miles could lead to a start in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 3.

"We hope to have a strong summer campaign, so we'll give him a little reprieve," Dollase said.

Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, El Gato Malo was a Kentucky Derby hopeful until he finished fifth in the Santa Anita Derby in early April. He lacked the needed graded stakes earnings to gain a berth in the Kentucky Derby.