03/27/2008 11:00PM

Nikki'sgoldensteed out with ankle injury


ARCADIA, Calif. - Nikki'sgoldensteed, the winner of the Turf Paradise Derby in February, has been taken out of training because of an injured ankle, trainer Bob Hess Jr. said on Friday.

The California-bred colt, by Formal Gold, finished second in the El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows on March 8 in his last start. The ankle injury flared in recent weeks, Hess said.

"I worked him again and when [the ankle] heated up, I gave him an MRI," Hess said. "He's trying to tell me something. He'll get a breather. I think we dodged a bullet."

Nikki'sgoldensteed will be given a 60-day break with the goal of a return to racing by Del Mar. Hess said the injury will not require surgery.

Owned by Gary Spencer and Matthew Lomas, Nikki'sgoldensteed has won 2 of 7 starts and $136,036. He is among the leading California-bred 3-year-olds, along with the multiple stakes winners Bob Black Jack, Georgie Boy, and Sierra Sunset. Sierra Sunset, the winner of the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park earlier this month, has been sidelined by injury.

Hess believes the injury flared after Nikki'sgoldensteed jumped a shadow on the first turn of the El Camino Real Derby, a race he lost by 1 1/2 lengths to Autism Awareness.

"He went airborne and that's probably when he did it," he said.

Hollywood Park track work delayed

Hollywood Park has postponed a renovation of its main track from Tuesday until April 9 because of a forecast of rain, the track announced on Friday.

Hollywood Park plans to add fibers and wax to its Cushion Track synthetic surface in advance of the start of the spring-summer meeting on April 23. The track underwent a similar renovation last July at the end of the spring-summer meeting.

Track officials have said there will not be a disruption to daily training while the renovation is conducted.

Training stopped, track refreshed

Workouts were canceled at Santa Anita after 9:15 a.m. on Friday after several trainers expressed concern about uneven areas of the synthetic track in the stretch.

With a little less than an hour remaining for training, trainers were notified via the backstretch loudspeaker that no further workouts would be allowed and that training would be restricted to horses galloping.

After training hours, track maintenance crews added material to the surface near the rail between the eighth pole and the sixteenth pole. The area has been the subject of attention in the past by track maintenance crews.

Black Mamba favored Sunday

Five consecutive placings in graded stakes will make Black Mamba the favorite in Sunday's $75,000 American Beauty Handicap at Santa Anita. It is the sort of race that trainer John Sadler has been seeking in the last week for the 5-year-old New Zealand-bred mare.

Sadler entered Black Mamba for the $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap last Sunday and for Saturday's Hillsborough Handicap at Bay Meadows, but said on Friday that Black Mamba would stay at Santa Anita for the American Beauty.

"We wanted to get an easier spot," Sadler said. "She needs to win."

Sadler said he passed the Grade 2 Santa Ana because "we were a little concerned that there would be no pace and we were right."

The race was won by Costume, who set the pace.

There should be more pace in the American Beauty, which has drawn a field of seven. Forest Melody, who won an allowance race on March 1, and Fleet Caroline, the winner of the Sun City Handicap at Turf Paradise on Feb. 16, can lead the field.

Black Mamba must beat the English import Diamond Diva, who ran second in each of her last four starts, three of which were listed stakes.

Now trained by Jim Cassidy for Three Chimneys Racing, Diamond Diva has won 3 of 12 starts. She ran in races at six or seven furlongs in most of her starts last year.

"She does nothing wrong," Cassidy said. "She goes out and does her job."

Cassidy said he gave Diamond Diva a quarter-mile workout on Thursday morning "to sharpen her up a tad."

Hucking Hot makes her first start since finishing fifth in the Grade 2 San Gorgonio Handicap here in January. The winner of the Audrey Skirball-Kenis Stakes at Hollywood Park last November, Hucking Hot should improve with the recent rest, trainer Paddy Gallagher said.

"She seems to run better off a little layoff," Gallagher said. "We've freshened her up a bit."

Midnight Lute going to New York

Midnight Lute, the champion sprinter of 2007, will be part of trainer Bob Baffert's stable in New York this summer, and will not start again until then, the trainer said on Friday.

Baffert had considered starting Midnight Lute in stakes in Kentucky or New York in coming weeks, but has changed his mind. He insisted on Friday that Midnight Lute is not injured.

"I might freshen him up more," he said. "I'll run him when I feel like he's ready to do something. I know I'll take a load to New York and he'll be on it."

Owned by Mike Pegram, Paul Weitman and Karl Watson, Midnight Lute has won 5 of 11 starts and $1,610,600. The winner of the 2007 Breeders' Cup Sprint, Midnight Lute has not started since finishing second in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct in November.

On the Virg in Santa Anita Derby

On the Virg will make his stakes debut in Saturday's $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, but the colt did not have a rider as of Friday, according to Michael McCarthy, an assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher.

On the Virg has won 2 of 3 starts, the victories coming in a maiden race and an optional claimer over 1o1/16 miles at this meeting.

"He's 2 for 2 around two turns, so why not?" McCarthy said of running in the Santa Anita Derby. "If you're going to find out what you've got, now is the time to do it."

The Santa Anita Derby is run over 1 1/8 miles. The other probable starters are Coast Guard, Colonel John, El Gato Malo, Georgie Boy, Polonius, Signature Move, and Yankee Bravo.