08/10/2005 11:00PM

La Jolla bonus stop for El Roblar


DEL MAR, Calif. - The $150,000 La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar on Saturday amounts to a bonus start for the undefeated El Roblar.

After the colt won a division of the Oceanside Stakes in his turf debut on July 20, trainer Richard Mandella said he planned to wait for the $400,000 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 5 for El Roblar's next start. But the way El Roblar trained after the Oceanside convinced Mandella to add the Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap to the schedule.

"The Del Mar Derby is my main goal," Mandella said. "We took the first step and it didn't take much out of him. He's doing too good not to run back."

After three races - two on dirt and one on turf - El Roblar has developed the habit of stalking the pace and taking the lead in the final furlong. In each race, he has won by three-quarters of a length.

The Oceanside Stakes was his first start around two turns; he rallied from fourth to edge In Excelsis.

"My concern is that he's doing so good on the turf that he doesn't forget about the dirt," Mandella said. "I like him a lot."

Victor Espinoza rides El Roblar, replacing Alex Solis, who is riding Sweet Return in Saturday's Arlington Million.

Owned by Jess Jackson, has six opponents in the La Jolla, which is run at 1 1/16 miles on turf. El Roblar's main threat is Willow O Wisp, the winner of the Grade 3 Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 26.

Since joining Vladimir Cerin's stable earlier this year, Willow O Wisp has won 2 of 3 starts. Willow O Wisp was beaten a head in the Grade 3 Will Rogers Stakes at a mile.

Cerin is not worried about the presence of El Roblar, but would prefer the La Jolla were a longer race. The Cinema Handicap was a 1 1/8-mile turf race.

"I'm only interested in how my horse is doing," he said. "He's super. I'd prefer a longer distance, since that is where we were successful."

Willow O Wisp carries top weight of 121 pounds in the La Jolla, one more than El Roblar.

and Juliesugardaddy are the other stakes winners in the field.

Boggy Creek won the Sam Houston Texan Juvenile in Houston last November in his most recent start. He was sixth in his only previous start on turf, a sixth in the Bourbon County Stakes at Keeneland last October. The La Jolla is his first start for trainer Gary Mandella.

, who finished third behind El Roblar and In Excelsis in the Oceanside Stakes, won the Harry Henson Stakes for turf sprinters at Hollywood Park in April.