03/16/2011 12:53PM

Los Alamitos: Swimming gets Duke Kahanamoku fit for El Primero DelAno Derby trials

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It’s probably fitting that a Quarter Horse named Duke Kahanamoku spent a month over the winter swimming three times a week to prepare for his comeback in Friday’s time trials for the El Primero Del Ano Derby at Los Alamitos.

Duke Kahanamoku, the man himself, was an Olympic gold medalist in swimming a century ago, and helped make surfing famous.

Duke Kahanamoku, the 3-year-old colt, has won 2 of 3 starts for Muniz Quarter Horses and trainer Juan Aleman, a co-owner. The colt’s only loss was a seventh in the Golden State Million Futurity at Los Alamitos last November.

After the loss, Aleman said he thought Duke Kahanamoku needed a rest, owning to concern over a suspensory. Swimming was part of that therapy.

“He had some suspensory issues, nothing horrible, he just needed the time off,” Aleman said. “We could have gone ahead, but I didn’t think it was a good idea.

“We turned him out. We did some therapy on him and brought him back slowly. He swam about three times a week for a month.”

In February, Duke Kahanamoku had two quick workouts over 220 and 350 yards at Los Alamitos, giving Aleman hope that the colt can perform well in Friday’s trials. There are three trials over 400 yards and the 10 fastest finishers, regardless of finishing positions, earn berths in the $200,000 final on April 8.

“We’re hoping he gets a clean trip,” Aleman said. “He’s not the quickest horse away from the gate. We’re hoping he runs down the track and qualifies.”

At the same time, Aleman, who trained 2010 World Champion Apollitical Jess, is closely monitoring Duke Kahanamoku’s physical condition. “From his works, he’s been holding up,” Aleman said. “We’re pleased.”

Duke Kahanamoku starts in the second trial on Friday, facing West Coast Hawk, who won the Kindergarten Futurity last May and was third in the Los Alamitos Winter Derby on Feb. 18.

The first division is led by First Down Jess, who won the Golden State Million last November and has not started since finishing fourth in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity in December.

First Down Illusion, who won the Ed Burke Million Futurity last June, starts in the third division. He has lost his last four starts.

Saturday’s program features trials for the $200,000 La Primera Del Ano Derby for fillies on April 9.