02/03/2005 12:00AM

Given hot mounts, Solis speeds return

Alex Solis

ARCADIA, Calif. - Jockey Alex Solis returns to riding after a six-month break on Saturday with two mounts at Santa Anita, including Imperialism in the $300,000 Strub Stakes.

Solis has not ridden since he suffered a broken vertebra in a spill at Del Mar in late July. He received doctor's clearance to resume exercising horses on Jan. 20 and has been a fixture at Santa Anita over the last two weeks.

Wednesday, Solis said he was another week or so away from a comeback, wanting to lose five more pounds. But that afternoon, Solis said he and his agent, Scotty McClellan, decided to make a comeback on Saturday, when the mount became available on Imperialism as well as Pink Coral, a maiden trained by Bobby Frankel.

Solis has never ridden Imperialism, who has won 5 of 21 starts and $628,605. Imperialism was third in the Kentucky Derby last year, but is in the midst of a seven-race losing streak.

"We thought Imperialism has a good chance," Solis said. "I like the horse. And Bobby Frankel has a horse he really loves."

Solis spent Thursday morning jogging and walking near his home in Glendora, Calif. Later in the day, he said he planned to work out on a mechanical horse that allows riders to simulate race-riding technique, and he will undergo a massage. "The best part of the day will be my massage," he said.

Solis said that on Thursday he was heavier than he would prefer, at 119 pounds, but expected to be lighter by Saturday.

"I've got my rubber suit on today and that should help," he said.

"Endurance-wise, I am ready. The last two months I've been working really hard. I kept myself in shape. I was very concerned for that. My wind is very good. I run uphill and I feel good.

"The only thing I was concerned is the first week I was working horses, my legs felt kind of weak. But this week, I feel a lot stronger. It doesn't matter how many workouts you do. It's more demanding and a way different feeling" when you're riding horses."

Solis, 40, hopes to resume the success he had in the first half of 2004. At the time of his injury, he was leading the nation's riders in purse earnings. He finished ninth in the year-end standings with $11,554,851 despite missing most of the last half of the year.

Solis said that during the two weeks he has been exercising horses he has come to realize how much he missed riding.

"I won't be taking a day off for a while," he said. "I miss it quite a lot."

Both juvenile champs work

The 2004 juvenile champions, Declan's Moon and Sweet Catomine, worked at Southern California tracks on Thursday, preparing for starts at Santa Anita in March.

Declan's Moon, the champion 2-year-old male, worked five furlongs in 59.80 seconds at Hollywood Park, the fastest of 22 works at the distance. Trainer Ron Ellis said Declan's Moon is on target for the $200,000 Santa Catalina Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on March 5.

"He's further ahead than where I thought he was," Ellis said

Unraced since winning the Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 18, Declan's Moon was scheduled for a two-week vacation after that race. The break was stretched to three weeks because of wet weather.

Because of the break, Ellis was cautious about Thursday's workout. "I kind of expected that he might get a touch tired, but he's stronger than when he worked before the Futurity," he said. "It's gone incredibly well, so far."

Owned by Mace and Samantha Siegel, Declan's Moon has won all four of his starts and $507,300.

Sweet Catomine worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 at Santa Anita. While slower than most of the 34 works at the distance, the time did not bother trainer Julio Canani.

"She was breezing and I loved how she worked," Canani said. "Time only counts when you're trying to get out of jail. It means nothing."

Owned by Marty and Pam Wygod, Sweet Catomine is being pointed for the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks over 1 1/16 miles March 13. She has won 4 of 5 starts and $864,600.

"She looks unbelievable," Canani said. "That's the best work I've seen on this filly."

Trainer-TV commentator has a good one

Sean McCarthy could find himself doing television commentary on his own colt as the Triple Crown nears.

McCarthy, who trains eight horses at Santa Anita, has one of his best prospects this winter in Salty Humor, who starts in Saturday's $100,000 Sham Stakes for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita.

McCarthy, 42, spends his late mornings and early afternoons doing expert commentary on HRTV, the television network owned by Magna Entertainment that is based at Santa Anita.

A typical morning for McCarthy starts at the barn before dawn, then shifts to the TV studio for a few hours of commentary.

"I usually put a tie on in the truck," he said.

Salty Humor is a rare stakes starter for his barn. Owned by Phil and Cheva Chess, Salty Humor was bought privately last May after he failed to sell at a 2-year-old in training sale in Maryland, McCarthy said.

Salty Humor won his maiden by three lengths over 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park on Dec. 3. He returned to finish second to Spanish Chestnut in an allowance race on Dec. 27. Spanish Chestnut won the San Rafael Stakes on Jan. 15.

McCarthy said Salty Humor should be well suited to the Sham distance of 1 1/8 miles.

"I think at a mile and an eighth he could be more effective," he said.