03/28/2007 12:00AM

Four vie in key Snow Chief prep


ARCADIA, Calif. - Friday's third race at Santa Anita is an important start for the California-bred 3-year-olds Leesider, Stella Mark, Swift Demand, and Valid Star. All four of them are being considered for the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes at Hollywood Park on April 29, and Friday's $55,000 allowance race for statebreds over a mile is a key prep.

Although the allowance race is for 3-year-olds and up, and 3-year-olds rarely run against older horses at this time of year, there is only one older horse in the field, the 5-year-old Like New Money.

The race marks the first start against winners for Swift Demand, who won his debut against statebred 3-year-old maidens over 6 1/2 furlongs on Feb. 15 despite a dreadful start.

Trained by John Sadler, Swift Demand hesitated at the break and trailed by as many as 16 lengths before launching an impressive quarter-mile rally that resulted in victory by a head.

Owned by Lee and Susan Searing's CRK Stables, Swift Demand was purchased for $290,000 at the 2005 Barretts October yearling sale, the most expensive horse purchased at the sale.

"I don't want to get too high too soon, but I think he's a good horse," Sadler said.

Sadler is trying to take every advantage possible to make Friday's race easier for Swift Demand. The colt will be ridden by apprentice jockey Joseph Talamo, who will tack 107 pounds, the lowest assignment in the race.

Sadler said that Swift Demand has worked well since the maiden win; he had five works in March at six-day intervals.

"He's been closing really well in his works," Sadler said. "We're ready to take the next step. It is 3-year-olds and up, but it's our prep for the Snow Chief."

Stella Mark and Valid Star could be pacesetters. Stella Mark ran a game second to Air Commander in an allowance race over 1 1/8 miles on March 4, and is seeking his second win.

Valid Star has won three races in Northern California, all against claimers. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Valid Star led throughout in a $25,000 claimer against 3-year-olds in the mud at Bay Meadows on Feb. 23.

Leesider is a promising colt. Trained by Paddy Gallagher, he beat statebred maidens in a race over a mile on Feb. 22, closing from fifth to win by a half-length.

Like New Money has 1 victory in 11 starts, a maiden race in September 2005. He has lost 10 subsequent starts, including a second here on March 8.