03/25/2008 11:00PM

Guillot goes all out to make Derby


ARCADIA, Calif. - One way or another, Eric Guillot is determined to take a 3-year-old on the Kentucky Derby trail this spring.

This Saturday, Guillot starts Salute the Sarge in the $75,000 San Miguel Stakes over six furlongs at Santa Anita. A win in that race could lead to a start in the $325,000 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 19, the last major prep for the Kentucky Derby on May 3.

On April 5, Guillot plans to start Signature Move in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, California's last major prep for the Kentucky Derby. Signature Move has not started since finishing 10th in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds, a loss Guillot blamed on a lung infection.

Is Guillot dreaming about the Kentucky Derby? Maybe, but he is willing to take a shot with the pair, both of whom are owned by Michael Moreno of Lafayette, La., who races under the stable name Southern Equine Racing.

Salute the Sarge has not started since finishing ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Monmouth Park last October. He emerged from the race with a sore ankle that had plagued him through the fall. Last summer and fall, Salute the Sarge won the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship and Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes and was second in two Grade 1 races - the Del Mar Futurity and Norfolk Stakes.

"He was tired and sore after the Breeders' Cup," Guillot said. "You've got to throw that out. Now he's good. He might be a better horse than people give him credit."

Despite not being considered a top candidate for the Kentucky Derby, Salute the Sarge probably has enough graded earnings, $258,940, to make the field. If the Kentucky Derby draws more than 20 entrants, graded stakes earnings are the tiebreaker. Whether he gets that far is another matter. Salute the Sarge must show in Saturday's San Miguel Stakes that he is back to his spring form from last summer.

"I've honed on him pretty good with three three-quarter works," Guillot said.

The San Miguel has drawn five entrants, including the stakes winners Leonides and Sea of Pleasure.

Signature Move will be an outsider in the Santa Anita Derby, which is led by the graded stakes winners Colonel John, El Gato Malo, and Georgie Boy.

Signature Move has no graded stakes earnings, and must finish in the first two in the Santa Anita Derby to have any chance of starting in the Kentucky Derby. Guillot said he believes the horse deserves the chance, recalling the way Signature Move won an allowance race at Santa Anita in January before the loss in the Risen Star.

"He bled and had a lung infection at the Risen Star," Guillot said. "In the allowance race, he looked like a runner to me. If I don't get in, I could sit back and I'll have a good horse for the Preakness."

Mitchell has two for Tokyo City

Saturday's 11-race program features the $100,000 Tokyo City Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on the synthetic main track. The race has drawn a field of seven, including two geldings trained by Mike Mitchell - Big Booster and Church Service.

Big Booster, 7, was third in the Hollywood Gold Cup and Goodwood Stakes last year but only 10th in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 1. Church Service, 5, was second in the San Luis Obispo Handicap on turf on Feb. 23, his first start after being claimed by Mitchell for $50,000 on Jan. 20.

The Tokyo City was previously run at 1 1/8 miles on the main track. The new distance is designed to make the race a prep for the newly created Breeders' Cup Dirt Marathon over 1 1/2 miles, which will be run for the first time at Santa Anita in October.

On the Acorn targets San Juan

The Mitchell-trained On the Acorn, who finished sixth in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap last Saturday, will be pointed for a defense of his title in the $250,000 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap over about 1 3/4 miles on turf on April 20, the closing day of the winter-spring meeting.

Mitchell blamed himself for On the Acorn's loss last week. "Maybe I didn't train him hard enough," he said. "He came back and was blowing hard. I'll still go for the San Juan. I'll just train a little harder."

Tiago may ship for Oaklawn Handicap

Tiago, a three-time stakes winner last year who was fourth in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 1, is being considered for the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 5, trainer John Shirreffs said.

Tiago worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 at Hollywood Park last Sunday.

The timing of the Oaklawn Handicap fits Tiago since the next graded stakes for older horses over 1 1/16 miles or 1 1/8 miles on the main track in Southern California is the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at Hollywood on April 26.

Shirreffs won Sunday's sixth race with the promising maiden Madeo. A colt by Mizzen Mast, Madeo pulled clear in the final furlong to win the seven-furlong race by 6 1/4 lengths in 1:21.87.

Madeo was making his second start. He is not considered a candidate for the Kentucky Derby because of the late start to his career, Shirreffs said.

Crown of Thorns expected to recover

Crown of Thorns, the winner of the Robert Lewis Stakes in his stakes debut last month, underwent surgery last Saturday to have two screws placed in a cannon bone, trainer Richard Mandella said.

"They said it was minor and were confident it will heal well," Mandella said of the veterinarian's observations. "I'll give him four months off and point him to the end of the year."

Into Mischief, the winner of the CashCall Futurity in December, is nearing a return to training after missing nearly a month because of foot problems, Mandella said. Unraced since finishing second in the San Vicente Stakes last month, Into Mischief will be pointed for a summer campaign, Mandella said.

Crown of Thorns and Into Mischief are owned by B. Wayne Hughes.