11/25/2010 4:51PM

Lions Story taking shot at Hollywood Derby

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. – There was hope at the beginning of the year in the Jerry Hollendorfer stable that Lions Story would develop into a Triple Crown contender.

He never appeared in such races, getting stuck at the allowance level through the late winter and spring. There is just enough time this year for a derby win for Lions Story, if he can pull a surprise in Sunday’s $250,000 Hollywood Derby over 1 1/4 miles on turf.

“He may be a derby horse right now,” said Hollendorfer’s assistant, Dan Ward. “He wasn’t bred to be a Kentucky Derby prospect. He’s by Wildcat Heir. No one thought he could go two turns, but he’s a trier.”

Owned by Hollendorfer, John Carver, and George Todaro, Lions Story has won 2 of 11 starts and has been second or third in eight races. He made his stakes debut in the El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar on Sept. 3, finishing second to Hollywood Derby entrant Haimish Hy. Lions Story had made one subsequent start, finishing third in an optional claimer over 1 1/8 miles on turf on Nov. 7.

The Nov. 7 race was Lions Story’s first start on turf, and he finished well, suggesting the longer trip on Sunday is within his reach. “It was a good race for considering he had two months off,” Ward said. “He was seven lengths back and he got beat a length and a half. It was a good prep.”

Overall, Lions Story does not have the sort of credentials that would inspire confidence in a race such as the Hollywood Derby, but this year’s field is not especially strong.

The list of candidates include Fantastic Pick and Blue Panis, who were first and second in the Oak Tree Derby last month; Sebastian Flyte, Haimish Hy, and Jairzihno, who were fourth through sixth in the Oak Tree Derby; Citrus Kid, who was second in the Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park last month, and Juniper Pass, who won an optional claimer over 1 1/4 miles on turf on Nov. 7.

Fluke returning to races

Fluke, who won the Grade 1 Citation Handicap in 2009, returns from a layoff of nearly seven months in Saturday’s third race. Trainer Humberto Ascanio thought enough of the way that Fluke has trained in recent weeks to consider Saturday’s $250,000 Citation Handicap before opting for a $48,000 allowance race over 1 1/16 miles on turf.

“I hope he’s in the same form as last year,” Ascanio said. “I would have run him in the Citation, but I thought for the first race back we wanted to find an easier spot.

“I want to get him going before the winter. He’s been training really good, and I think he can win.”

Owned by Patricia Bozano, Fluke has not started since finishing second to Compari in the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap at Santa Anita last April. Last March, Fluke was second, by a nose, to the mare Proviso in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile. After the Arcadia, Fluke was diagnosed with a bone chip in an ankle, which required surgery and led to the layoff that ends on Saturday.

Crown of Thorns to be back in training

Crown of Thorns, scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs earlier this month in the days before the race, will resume training with Richard Mandella at the beginning of the year, Mandella said.

Crown of Thorns, 5, underwent an arthroscopic procedure on a knee earlier this month and is currently based at owner B. Wayne Hughes’s farm in Kentucky.

“He aggravated an old problem, and they went in and cleaned it up,” Mandella said. “We’ll give him some time off and start again. He’s pretty good at paying back.”

Mandella is targeting a return in the second half of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting for Crown of Thorns, who has won 2 of 8 starts and $687,080. Crown of Thorns has been second in four consecutive Grade 1 races in the last 13 months.