05/16/2007 11:00PM

Laddies Poker enters Will Rogers off big win

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Once he got away from the gates, Laddies Poker scored a near-perfect maiden win at Santa Anita on April 8. He stalked the pace, took the lead in early stretch, and pulled clear for a sharp three-length win.

Trainer Vladimir Cerin believes that could be the start of a memorable season for Laddies Poker. The colt will make his American stakes debut in Saturday's $100,000 Will Rogers Stakes at Hollywood Park.

"I have high hopes for this horse," Cerin said. "I feel he is good enough to run in stakes company. He appears to have improved in each of his three starts."

Purchased for approximately $125,000 last fall, Laddies Poker started three times in England and Ireland last year. His best result was a fifth at 100-1 in the $2.03 million Goffs Million going seven furlongs at the Curragh last September. Laddies Poker finished 2 1/4 lengths behind race winner Miss Beatrix, and one place in front of Finsceal Beo in the field of 28.

This year, Finsceal Beo has had an outstanding year, winning the English 1000 Guineas and finishing second in the French 1000 Guineas.

The Goffs Million, Cerin said, "was as tough as any Grade 2 you can find."

Laddies Poker faces only colts in the Will Rogers, a race that will lack a heavy favorite. Three runners - Silent Soul, Worldly, and Yario - won allowance races in their last starts and are capable of winning this race.

Silent Soul was second in the Pasadena Stakes at a mile on turf at Santa Anita in March. Yario won his U.S. debut on the hillside turf course on April 11, beating Will Rogers entrant Hurry Home Warren, who returned to win the Harry Henson Stakes at six furlongs on turf on April 27.

Hurry Home Warren has never won beyond about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita. He could be redirected to Sunday's Laz Barrera Stakes at seven furlongs, trainer Jesus Mendoza said.

Worldly won his U.S. debut in an allowance race at 1 1/8 miles on turf on April 6, beating Silent Soul by three-quarters of a length. The race was by far the best of Worldly's career, and trainer Ben Cecil hopes to take him to the lucrative stakes at Colonial Downs this summer.

"He's got to get through the first couple of hurdles first," Cecil said. "I don't think a mile will be a problem. He's got a nice turn of foot."

Desert Stormer: Selvatica tops field

Selvatica may not need her best performance to win Saturday's $75,000 Desert Stormer Handicap, Saturday's third race at Hollywood Park.

The 120-pound topweight in the six-furlong race for fillies and mares, Selvatica does not face a tough field in her attempt to win for the first time this year.

Selvatica finished second in the Grade 3 Las Flores Handicap at six furlongs at Santa Anita on Feb.o24. She led through a pace of 21.47 and 44.24 seconds before fading in the final furlong to finish second to Hello Lucky.

"They went fast," trainer Julio Canani said.

Over the last year, Selvatica has the best form of the Desert Stormer entrants and may have a tactical advantage on the front. The race is not loaded with quick fillies and mares, and Selvatica used her speed to win three consecutive minor stakes last fall.

A winner of 6 of 11 starts and $242,440, Selvatica was purchased for $560,000 at the Barretts January mixed sale by Marsha Naify.

The Desert Stormer will be Selvatica's first start on a synthetic surface, but she is trained here with Canani's stable.

Bully Bones and Sweet Ambition have won stakes at Turf Paradise in the last year, but have not been as effective on this circuit.

Bully Bones won the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar in 2005. She has not started since winning the Mesa Handicap at Turf Paradise last December and has not raced on this circuit in a layoff-marred career since August 2005.

Sweet Ambition won the Cactus Flower Handicap at Turf Paradise at six furlongs on April 21. She returned to finish third in the Desert Sky Handicap at a mile on turf at Turf Paradise on May 5.