03/05/2010 1:00AM

Kilroe could be tailor-made for Ever a Friend


ARCADIA, Calif. - Front-running gray Ever a Friend would have been tough to beat no matter who else showed up Saturday in the Grade 1, $250,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap.

"He's the best horse I've ever trained," Mike Mitchell said. And the likely pace scenario for the one-mile turf race could make Ever a Friend the "best horse" for many bettors on the Santa Anita Handicap undercard.

A field of 11 entered the Kilroe, race 9 of 11, and the potential scratches of two front-runners would alter the complexion of the stakes and hand it on a silver platter to Ever a Friend.

Red Sun, an improving allowance horse, entered back in an allowance race Sunday. If he defects, it would leave the Kilroe with two front-runners.

Pace-presser Tuscan Evening also is doubtful. A filly with two graded stakes wins this meet against her gender, she was entered "to take a look," trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. What he saw was not pretty.

"I looked at the post," Hollendorfer said. Tuscan Evening drew post 11.

Hollendorfer said a decision on Tuscan Evening's status would be made Friday. If she doesn't run in the Kilroe Tuscan Evening will start in the Grade 2 Santa Ana on March 21.

If those two scratch, Ever a Friend and jockey Joel Rosario would be the lone speed over a course that recently favored speed at one mile. Leading contenders include Grade 1 winner Fluke, Grade 2 winner Battle of Hastings, and improving Blue Chagall. Others include Awesome Gem, Acclamation, Red Alert Day, Monzante, and the mare Proviso.

Ever a Friend was claimed for $62,500 in December 2007, and two starts later he won the 2008 Kilroe by 3 3/4 lengths. A runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile in 2008 was his last start until November 2009. Mitchell said Ever a Friend underwent stem-cell therapy on an ankle. He returned Nov. 5 with a sharp turf sprint win, followed by a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Citation on Nov. 27. A nagging foot problem has prevented him from starting since.

"I backed off, took care of the foot, and planned for the Kilroe," Mitchell said.

Blue Chagall was the beaten favorite in the Citation but had an alibi, trainer Julio Canani said.

"He was running off; he could not get covered up," Canani said.

Alex Solis takes over Saturday, and from post 2, Canani said he expects a different trip.

"What I like is he'll be able to cover up because he's inside," Canani said.

Blue Chagall was gelded late last spring, and his restricted stakes win one start back at Santa Anita is good enough on figures. The question is whether he has the class.

Battle of Hastings has not started since a runner-up finish Nov. 29 in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. Along with Blue Chagall and Fluke, he was expected to start in a prep race Feb. 6, but racing was canceled, and the race subsequently did not fill.

"It would have been nice, but he runs well fresh, and I think he'll be all right," trainer Mullins said. Battle of Hastings has won six of 15.