01/02/2008 1:00AM

Newcomer Bejarano makes big splash


ARCADIA, Calif. - By his estimation, Rafael Bejarano's win aboard Alexandra Rose in Tuesday's $110,400 Monrovia Handicap at Santa Anita was just his third ride down Santa Anita's hillside turf course.

Bejarano rode the unique course like a veteran, guiding Alexandra Rose from off the pace to win the Grade 3 race by three-quarters of a length over Society Hostess, who was disqualified and placed fifth for causing interference in deep stretch.

The victory was Bejarano's seventh win of the Santa Anita meeting, which opened Dec. 26, and third on Tuesday, leaving him one in front of veteran David Flores and defending champion Garrett Gomez at the top of the jockey standings.

Flores and Gomez are established in Southern California. Bejarano, 25, relocated from Kentucky in late November.

"I feel very good and happy that a lot of trainers have given me an opportunity," Bejarano said. "That's what you need when you come to a new place."

Alexandra Rose ($15) won her first stakes in the United States in the Monrovia. Trained by Neil Drysdale for the Team Valor International partnership, Alexandra Rose ran about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course in 1:12.86. The victory ended a five-race losing streak dating back to a minor stakes in South Africa in 2006.

Alexandra Rose was sixth early and fifth with a furlong remaining.

"When we passed the quarter pole, she was handling the course real well," Bejarano said. "She tried to get out with me just a little bit, but she's a very good horse."

Society Hostess was disqualified and placed fifth for lugging to the outside in the stretch and interfering with Strong Faith, the original fifth-place finisher. Good Mood, Audacious Chloe, and Strong Faith were each moved up one position following the stewards' inquiry to second, third, and fourth.

The Monrovia was Bejarano's first stakes win of the meeting.

Bejarano has leading chances in two stakes over 1 1/16 miles on Saturday - on Turn Away in the $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and Racketeer in the $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap for older horses. Both horses are trained by Bobby Frankel, who urged Bejarano to move to California for the winter.

Bejarano rode Turn Away to a troubled third in the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 24. She broke slowly and was steadied through the stretch, losing by 2 3/4 lengths to the winner, Pure Clan.

"I was supposed to be closer to the pace," Bejarano said. "She broke a little slowly."

The Santa Ysabel is Turn Away's California debut. She is likely to be favored.

Racketeer was a fast-closing second in the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park Dec. 8. The result left Bejarano eager to ride the 5-year-old horse again.

"He was kind of lazy," he said. "I think we'll have him a little closer. When I let him go, he came flying."

Racketeer is part of a seven-horse field in the San Pasqual, which also includes Molengao, the winner of the San Antonio and Mervyn LeRoy handicaps last year.

Daytona targets Strub

Daytona, the winner of three consecutive graded stakes on turf in the final three months of 2007, will switch surfaces for his next start.

Trainer Dan Hendricks said earlier this week that Daytona will be pointed for the $300,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles on the synthetic main track on Feb. 3. The Grade 2 Strub Stakes will be Daytona's first start on a synthetic track since his third-place finish in the El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 31. Daytona had 1 win and 2 seconds on the surface in England last winter before joining Hendricks's stable.

"It opens up everything if he takes to the Cushion Track," Hendricks said. "We'll point for the Strub and determine if that's the right spot. The race at Del Mar was good, and his form from England was good."

Daytona has won 5 of 11 starts and $551,390. Since being bought by a partnership for what Hendricks said was "less than $140,000," Daytona has earned $543,288.

Dearest Trickski a synthetic gal

Dearest Trickski, the former $10,000 claimer who won her stakes debut in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes last Saturday, will be part of a strong team for trainer John Sadler in the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint for California-breds and Florida-breds at Santa Anita Jan. 26.

Dearest Trickski has won four consecutive races since being claimed by Sadler and Tom Mankiewicz for $32,000 at Del Mar last August. Dearest Trickski has won 8 of 12 starts and $280,500. She has earned $232,800 for Mankiewicz.

Sadler said the key to her success has been synthetic tracks. Dearest Trickski, 4, has won 3 of 4 starts on such surfaces, including a $50,000 claimer at Del Mar in September and an allowance race at Hollywood Park in November.

"She won at Del Mar when you couldn't win on the front, and she won off," Sadler said. "It was a good race, but it was against claimers.

"When she won on the synthetic track at Hollywood Park, that was the race that showed us. I just think it's the surface."

In 2008, Dearest Trickski can run in stakes all year on synthetic surfaces without leaving this circuit. Even though it is only January, Sadler is hoping that Dearest Trickski will fit in a race such as the $1 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting on Oct. 24.

Sadler also intends to start Lady Gamer, the winner of the Playa del Rey Stakes at Hollywood Park last month, in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint.

The Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint is also a possibility for La Traviata, who suffered the first loss in her four-race career in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Monmouth Park on Oct. 26.

La Traviata, trained last year by Patrick Biancone, has been transferred to Todd Pletcher. She worked a half-mile in 49.40 seconds at Hollywood Park on Monday.

Crown of Thorns adds to barn's riches

Trainer Richard Mandella's stable seems loaded with promising 3-year-olds.

Into Mischief won the $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park on Dec. 22. On Tuesday, Crown of Thorns was a striking winner of a maiden race for 3-year-olds over seven furlongs.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Crown of Thorns drew off in the stretch to win by seven lengths over Masterwork, timed in a quick 1:20.65 over a track that played fast through the first week of the meeting.

Owned by B. Wayne Hughes - who also owns Into Mischief - Crown of Thorns was making his second start; he ran fifth in his debut on Dec. 8.

"He ran like he was expected to do the first time," Mandella said of Tuesday's race. "Looking back, I trained him a little too soft for his first start."

Crown of Thorns is nominated for the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Dash at Santa Anita on Jan. 26, but Mandella said that race is not a certainty for the colt.

There may be more to come from the stable. Mandella nominated Highest Humor, an unraced Distorted Humor colt, as a 3-year-old to follow. Owned by Jess Jackson, Highest Humor is expected to start in coming weeks.

La Tormenta wins, is vanned off

La Tormenta, the winner of Tuesday's fifth race for $40,000 claimers on the hillside turf course, was vanned off with a tendon injury, track stewards said.

La Tormenta ($3.60) was the third winner of the meeting for trainer Peter Miller, two of which have been vanned off. On Dec. 26, Buck was vanned off following a win in an allowance race on the hillside turf course.