12/01/2006 12:00AM

Gryder on a mission this year


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Last July, jockey Aaron Gryder finished the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting 10th in the standings. It did not meet his expectations, six months after he had relocated his family from the East to his native California.

"I wanted more," he said. "I wasn't happy with my Hollywood Park meeting in the summer. I didn't think things were going the way I thought we could. The bottom line, I had to place it on my shoulders."

More than four months later, Gryder is in a different frame of mind. Through Thursday, he was fourth in the rider's standings at the Hollywood Park fall meeting with 15 wins, two less than leader Garrett Gomez. Gryder opened Friday's card with a victory on favored Can I Call You Dad.

Gryder said the events of recent weeks has left him confident that the move to California was the right one and that he will have a big 2007.

"I love being in this position," he said. "It's a lot of fun. I'm really having a great meet."

Earlier this year, Gryder finished the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting in fifth place with 14 wins and sixth at Del Mar with 16 wins.

"I thought at Del Mar I started to get a little more business from stables that I might not have been riding so much for," he said. "I can see my business changing. One thing I've lacked through the year was a lot of stakes mounts. At this meeting, we've been active in them."

Positioned after the Breeders' Cup and before the prominent Santa Anita winter-spring meeting, the fall meeting at Hollywood Park is one of the least important of the year. For Gryder, though, the meeting has sentimental value.

Gryder, 36, won his first riding title in the 1987 Hollywood Park fall meeting, when he was a 17-year-old apprentice.

On Sunday's program, he has six mounts, including the Canadian stakes winner Gins Majesty in the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap for fillies and mares. A win at the highest level is one thing lacking from Gryder's accomplishments in recent weeks and would add even more to his growing reputation.

"I'm having so much fun right now," he said.

Exhale's major goal the Santa Anita Derby

For the 2-year-old maiden Exhale, the importance of Sunday's fourth race cannot be underestimated.

Four months from now, trainer John Sadler expects Exhale to be running in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby.

"I'll be disappointed if he's not," Sadler said.

Exhale makes his second start Sunday, in a race over 1 1/16 miles. The fourth race is the last of two divisions of maiden special weight races for 2-year-olds that could produce runners for the major races in the first few months of 2007.

In the first division, Ravel, a promising Fusaichi Pegasus colt, makes his second career start and his first in California.

Exhale was purchased by CRK Stables for $800,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-year-olds in-training sale last February. In his debut at Santa Anita on Oct. 21, Exhale broke slowly, challenged for the early lead, and finished second by 2 1/2 lengths to Notional, a candidate for the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 16.

"We were surprised he showed the speed that he did when he broke slowly from the one hole," Sadler said of Exhale. "He trains like he'll relax.

"The key thing that I wanted to do was to space his races," said Sadler. "We're kind of where we want to be."

Exhale must beat Forward Commitment, who was second in his last start, and Game of Skill, who was a troubled second as the even-money favorite in a maiden race over 1 1/16 miles here Nov. 12.

Game of Skill wore a blinker over his right eye in his last start, but will not wear that equipment in Sunday's race, trainer Jeff Mullins said. Game of Skill has a new jockey, with Gryder replacing Alex Solis.

Ravel stretches out in second start

In the second race, Ravel will be favored in a field that includes the quick Scorpion Prince and Got a Question, who finished fifth behind Game of Skill in his debut Nov. 12.

Ravel is owned by Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Ravel was purchased for $950,000 at the 2005 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

In his debut at Keeneland on Oct. 22, Ravel rallied from sixth in a field of 11 to finish 2 3/4 lengths behind Teuflesberg, who returned to finish 10th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.

Sunday's race will be Ravel's first around two turns. He has had two five-furlong workouts since arriving at Hollywood Park, including one in 1:00.20 on Tuesday.

"He had a good five-furlong work the other day," said Justin Curran, Pletcher's assistant in California. "The two turns will help with his pedigree."

Inda gears up for two graded stakes

Two-thirds of Eduardo Inda's stable will start in graded stakes at Hollywood Park over the next two weekends. The problem is Inda only has three horses.

Sunday, Inda starts Dona Amelia in the $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap for fillies and mares on the main track. On Saturday, he starts T.H. Approval in the $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup.

A Chilean-bred, Dona Amelia makes her second start in this country in the Bayakoa. Purchased earlier this year by Barry Schwartz, Dona Amelia finished second in her U.S. debut in an allowance race on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita on Oct. 19.

In Chile, she won 6 of 12 starts, including two stakes earlier this year.

"I saw the tapes of her races, and I know she ran with the best fillies," Inda said. "She ran with the boys a couple of times."

With several of the circuit's leading older fillies and mares having been retired, such as Healthy Addiction, Hollywood Story, and Star Parade, Inda said he is hoping that Dona Amelia can take their place - in the Bayakoa and the major stakes of the upcoming Santa Anita meeting.

"This is a good time to try a filly on dirt," he said.