04/12/2006 11:00PM

Nakatani retains ride on A. P. Warrior


ARCADIA, Calif. - A. P. Warrior, the winner of the San Felipe Stakes last month and the third-place finisher in the Santa Anita Derby last weekend, will be ridden by Corey Nakatani in the Kentucky Derby on May 6.

A. P. Warrior is trained by John Shirreffs, who won the 2005 Kentucky Derby in an upset with Giacomo.

Nakatani, who has yet to win the Kentucky Derby with 11 mounts, has ridden A. P. Warrior in his last two starts. The San Felipe was the first time that Nakatani had ridden A. P. Warrior, who is owned by Stan Fulton.

A winner of 3 of 8 starts and $323,185, A. P. Warrior finished 4 3/4 lengths behind Brother Derek in the Santa Anita Derby. He was second until late stretch and finished 1 1/2 lengths behind the runner-up, Point Determined.

Nakatani and Shirreffs maintain that race tactics of staying close to Brother Derek took A. P. Warrior out of his best strategy of running from off the pace.

"I was a little disappointed," Shirreffs said. "He was a little out of his game, chasing the speed."

Nakatani said the Kentucky Derby's large field should aid A. P. Warrior.

"In the Kentucky Derby, I won't be chasing," Nakatani said. "I'll probably be in the second or third flight. There will be plenty of speed; that's all that's in there this year."

A. P. Warrior has run in six stakes and won one of them, the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 18.

"A. P. Warrior is like a horse that wants to go farther," Shirreffs said.

"Giacomo ground it out. He was steady. He went 12, 12, and 12," he said, referring to the number of seconds it took Giacomo to complete a furlong. "A. P. Warrior can go a mile and a quarter and have a kick."

News late getting to bettors

Shirreffs and Jerry and Ann Moss, the owners of Giacomo, won two races on Wednesday - a maiden race with RJ's Way and an optional claimer for 3-year-olds with Neko Bay.

The victory by RJ's Way ($30.80) in the second race was the 4-year-old's first start as a gelding. The information that RJ's Way was racing as a gelding was not relayed to the public until after the first race had been run, following the start of betting in the daily double and early pick three.

Shirreffs said that he failed to inform the Santa Anita racing office that RJ's Way was a gelding when entries were taken last Sunday. When he saw that RJ's Way was listed as a colt, he notified racing officials when the horses reached the paddock.

Trainers must declare that horses are making their first start as a gelding when entries are made. Failure to do so in the past has resulted in fines for some trainers.

A "first-time gelding" is an angle that some bettors follow, believing that a castrated horse will show more focus in a race.

The win by Neko Bay was not without anxious moments. Neko Bay snuck through on the rail in early stretch and was fully extended to finish a nose in front of Fear No Darkness. Blazing Sunset finished third, a head behind Fear No Darkness.

After a four-minute inquiry, Fear No Darkness was demoted from second to third for bumping Blazing Sunset in the stretch.

Neko Bay finished a mile in 1:37.70.

"He showed a lot of courage," Shirreffs said. "Being stuck on the inside, it didn't look like he had any room at all. He was a little green, racing on the wrong lead going into the first turn."

By Giant's Causeway, Neko Bay is undefeated in two starts, having beaten maidens on March 4. Though he was nominated for the Triple Crown, Neko Bay needs more experience, Shirreffs said. He could be ready for a stakes during the upcoming Hollywood Park meeting.

"He's still learning because of immaturity," Shirreffs said. "He'll definitely get better."

Derek will work early next week

Brother Derek jogged two miles on Thursday and is expected to have a half-mile workout on Monday or Tuesday, trainer Dan Hendricks said. Hendricks said he would wait to inspect track conditions and the weather forecast before finalizing on a workout day.

Brother Derek would then have another workout on April 24 or 25 before traveling to Churchill Downs, Hendricks said.

Poker fund-raiser for ailing horseman

A benefit poker tournament to aid former trainer Ross Fenstermaker will be held at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Arcadia on Saturday at 6 p.m. The Texas hold 'em tournament has an entry fee of $200.

Fenstermaker, who trained such prominent horses as Precisionist and Susan's Girl, was stricken with a cranial blood clot last month. In recent years, he had been working as an exercise rider.

For further information on the benefit tournament, contact Tom Knust at (626) 390-4900.