02/19/2010 1:00AM

Las Flores likely target for Witty


Witty so impressed trainer Richard Mandella with her comeback win in an allowance race on Thursday that he began to wonder about a start in a certain $5 million race in Arkansas in April.

When told that the third-place finisher of the Apple Blossom Invitational on April 9 is worth $500,000 if both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta appear, it caught his attention. "Really?" he said.

That's about as far as Mandella was willing to go, however. As sharp as Witty was on Thursday, going up against the 2009 Horse of the Year in Rachel Alexandra and the older female champion Zenyatta is not a logical next start.

Witty has won four races, including the Grade 3 Railbird Stakes last May, but was sidelined for nine months because of a bone chip in an ankle. Thursday, Witty ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.47, stalking the pace before drawing off to win by 1 1/4 lengths.

Mandella envisions keeping her in sprints this spring, with the $100,000 Las Flores Handicap over 6 1/2 furlongs on April 4 a goal instead of a race at Keeneland.

"I don't know if I want to ship her off right away," he said. "More than likely, I'd stay here for the race."

Knapp gets healthy with one big win

Yes, trainer Steve Knapp bet on his longshot El Nadia, who won Thursday's fifth race and returned $111.60. He had more than $2 on the New Zealand import, and more than $1 on the winning exacta combination with 3-1 Sleep Tight that paid $295.20.

After suffering through a meet-long 36-race losing streak, Knapp appreciated the winner, and the pari-mutuel returns. "

"I've been getting my [tail] kicked all meet," he said. "I got my money back."

El Nadia was the longest shot in a field of eight. Ridden by Tyler Baze, she closed from seventh to win by a half-length over Sleep Tight. El Nadia had 1 win in 25 starts in New Zealand and races for Redwood Racing Ventures.

"She'd been training beautifully," he said. "She had some issues when we got her and she got through them."

Knapp was eager for a breakthrough win, to help stable morale and his pocketbook. He expects better results for the second half of the winter-spring meeting.

Knapp's winner led to a pick six that had only one winning ticket, worth $87,594. Cecil Barber, who owns the maiden claimer Press the Point, the winner of the eighth race, told HRTV in the winner's circle that he had the winning pick six ticket. Track officials said the ticket cost $2,160.

Former trainer Dal Jones dies at 38

Funeral services for Dal Jones Jr., a former trainer who worked in the marketing and group sales departments at Hollywood Park, will be held at 11 a.m. Pacific on Tuesday at Sky Rose chapel at Rose Hills in Whittier, Calif. A reception will follow at 2 p.m. in the Chandelier room of the Santa Anita turf club.

Jones died on Tuesday after complications of surgery. He was 38. Jones worked as an assistant trainer for David Hofmans and Bob Hess Jr. before moving to the front office.

A memorial fund, the Dal Jones IV Memorial Fund, has been established on behalf of the family through the San Gabriel, Calif., branch of Wells Fargo bank.