04/02/2009 12:00AM

Gryder seeks boost from Dubai


ARCADIA, Calif. - Jockey Aaron Gryder didn't even have to wait until the race was over to reflect on his career-defining victory last Saturday.

As Well Armed stormed to a 14-length victory in the $6 million Dubai World Cup in the Middle East last weekend, the magnitude of the win was not lost on Gryder.

"At the three-eighths pole, when I turned for home, I said, 'They're not catching me,' " he said on the Santa Anita backstretch Thursday.

Through the lengthy stretch, Gryder knew he was pulling away and was able to enjoy the moment.

"I looked under my arm twice," Gryder said.

Gryder is hoping his success in Dubai will translate into more opportunities in the United States, and especially Southern California where he is based. Through Tuesday, he led the nation's riders in earnings with $4,348,880, $3.6 million of which came from Well Armed's win in Dubai.

At the current Santa Anita winter-spring meeting, Gryder is 13th in the standings with 13 wins. Through Wednesday, he had ridden 120 mounts, the fewest opportunities among the top 15 riders.

On Saturday's 11-race Santa Anita Derby program, Gryder has eight mounts, including Z Day in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, Desert Code in the $150,000 Arcadia Handicap for turf milers, and Trumpet Player Jay in the $150,000 Potrero Grande Handicap for sprinters. Desert Code, winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint last October, is Gryder's best chance in a stakes.

The Santa Anita Derby will be the first time Gryder has ridden Z Day, a recent arrival from Florida trained by Mike Mitchell. Z Day is making his stakes debut in the Santa Anita Derby, and his expected to set the pace for his Ahmed Zayat-owned stablemate Pioneerof the Nile. Gaining the mount was a surprise until entries were announced Wednesday, Gryder said.

"I didn't know I was riding the Santa Anita Derby," he said.

Well Armed's win could lead to more stakes mounts for Gryder, a task he said will be his responsibility to achieve.

"It opens doors," he said. "It's my fault if I can't make it happen. They're not going to give it to me, but it changes the way you go about things.

"I don't have a lot of business. I'm looking forward to building on that."

Mitchell at the top of standings

Mitchell saddled three consecutive winners on Wednesday to take a one-win lead over John Sadler in the trainer standings, 33-32. Mitchell won the fifth race with Dadsalittleunusual ($3.20), the sixth race with Big Wave Rider ($5.20), and the seventh with Prussian ($6).

Prussian, winner of the Grade 3 Summer Stakes at Woodbine in 2007, closed from sixth to win an optional claimer on the hillside turf course by 1 1/4 lengths over Headache. Mitchell considered the optional claimer as a prep for the $100,000 San Simeon Handicap on the hillside turf course April 18.

"I thought he'd be a great candidate for that," Mitchell said Thursday. "He had to run like he did yesterday for me to think of the San Simeon, but I think he is that good."

Prussian was Mitchell's sixth winner from his last 11 starters on the hillside turf course.

Mitchell is not certain his one-race lead on Sadler will be safe before the meeting ends April 19.

"Going into this meeting, I thought I had a lot of new shooters," he said of his stable. "I think it will go right down to the end."

Gregson Foundation honors Pegram

Mike Pegram, owner of such prominent runners as 1998 Kentucky Derby winner Real Quiet and the champion Silverbulletday, will be honored for his achievement in racing by the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation on April 13.

The Gregson Foundation provides college scholarships for the children of backstretch workers in Southern California.

Pegram will be honored at the Twin Palms restaurant in Pasadena at 6:30 p.m. April 13. For further information, contact the California Thoroughbred Trainers at (626) 447-2339.