06/07/2007 11:00PM

Lucky J. H. nearly back


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - One indication that Lucky J. H. is nearing a comeback after a yearlong layoff occurred on Thursday after a half-mile workout at Hollywood Park.

The 5-year-old horse was feeling so good that he tried to bite his workmate after breezing a half-mile in 48.60 seconds, trainer Carla Gaines said.

Gaines and owner-breeder John Harris are hoping that Lucky J. H.'s enthusiasm continues when he returns to racing later this summer.

The Harris-Gaines team has two promising California-breds on the verge of comebacks this year. The other is Spot the Diplomat, the winner of two stakes for 2-year-old statebreds last year, who also worked on Thursday.

"We're hoping to make the first part of Del Mar," Harris said of when the two will race. "It's taken a little longer than we thought to get them back to a race. What they had were not super-serious injuries, but they had problems that took time to resolve. We're excited to have them both back."

Spot the Diplomat worked a half-mile on Thursday but was not given an official time by clockers.

"They both had beautiful works," Gaines said.

If Lucky J. H. and Spot the Diplomat return to their previous form, they will add depth to their respective divisions among statebreds and possibly race against open company.

Lucky J. H. was sidelined last summer with an injury to the joint above his ankle, Harris said. The injury curtailed his best season. He was unbeaten in three starts, including two stakes.

"There were no chips or fractures or anything," Gaines said. "He just needed a break."

Lucky J. H. won the Tiznow Stakes for statebreds and the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap last spring. He was under consideration for the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar when he was taken out of training.

"He's been pretty conservatively managed," Harris said. "He's won his last three outs but he hasn't been in many races. You always worry if they can come back at the same level."

A winner of 5 of 11 starts and $330,435, Lucky J. H. has been a stakes winner or stakes-placed in every season of his career.

At 2, he was third in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes at Santa Anita. As a 3-year-old in 2005, he finished second in the Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-old statebreds at Hollywood Park.

By Cee's Tizzy, Lucky J. H. returned to Gaines's stable May 23, having undergone preliminary training at Harris Farms.

While a race has not been picked for Lucky J. H., Harris and Gaines have an obvious target for Spot the Diplomat - the $100,000 Real Good Deal Stakes for 3-year-old statebreds over seven furlongs on Aug. 10. Later in his career he may start on turf.

"I think he's a versatile horse and he should like the turf," Harris said. "If I would pick a distance, I would think that seven furlongs would be his niche."

Spot the Diplomat, by Worldly Manner, won 3 of 6 starts and $206,280 last year. He won three consecutive races last year - a maiden race, the Graduation Stakes over 5o1/2 furlongs, and the I'm Smokin Stakes over six furlongs. The stakes were run at Del Mar and restricted to statebreds.

Last fall at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, Spot the Diplomat finished third in the Grade 2 Norfolk Breeders' Cup Stakes and seventh in the California Cup Juvenile as the 9-5 favorite.

"After that race, it was as if he said, 'Guys, I'm tired,' " Gaines said. "He has no major physical issues. He was just a tired 2-year-old."