04/07/2010 12:00AM

Headturner streaking into derby


Headturner was a 10-1 chance when he won the Los Alamitos Winter Derby in February. It was the start of a winning streak that may be extended in Friday's $214,000 El Primero Del Ano Derby.

A win in that Grade 1 race over 400 yards would establish Headturner as a division leader as the more lucrative races of the summer grow closer.

Headturner followed his win in the Winter Derby with a strong victory in the El Primero Del Ano Derby trials on March 19. He broke through the gate before the start and still won the 400-yard race by 1 1/4 lengths. He was timed in 19.59 seconds and had the second-fastest qualifying time behind Rey Tiburon.

The trial win left trainer Jose Antonio Flores impressed with Headturner's poise and optimistic about his chances for Friday.

"The 1 horse kind of ran into the gate and set off my horse, that made him break through the gate," Flores said. "He settled back down and ran pretty good, which is rare. Usually, they don't do that. He showed me a lot of heart there."

The incident came at a cost. Jockey Rodrigo Aceves injured a foot and is out this month. G.R. Carter, who was aboard Headturner for the Winter Derby, has taken the mount. Carter, who is riding at Remington Park in Oklahoma City, has not ridden at Los Alamitos since the Winter Derby.

"It makes me feel good that [G.R.] has ridden him already, but I would feel comfortable with either rider," Flores said.

Owned by Jose Ramon Sandoval, Headturner has won 5 of 9 starts and $173,205. Flores said that regardless of the El Primero result, Headturner will be turned out for six to eight weeks at a local ranch and will resume training in early summer.

"If he can do well against these, he will have gone to another level," Flores said.

The El Primero Del Ano Derby includes three other runners from the Winter Derby - fifth- through seventh-place finishers Bring the Bling, Forrest Fire, and Harems Last Dash. Harems Last Dash returned to win a division of the El Primero trials in 19.69.

Rey Tiburon's quick trial win in 19.52 was his third victory in eight races. Trained by Felix Gonzalez, Rey Tiburon was second in the Turf Paradise Futurity last December, his only stakes appearance.