10/10/2006 11:00PM

Obrigado following Aragorn's lead


ARCADIA, Calif. - The comparisons will be inevitable. If Obrigado wins Saturday's $150,000 Oak Tree Derby at Santa Anita, trainer Neil Drysdale will be hard-pressed to make it through the day before someone asks him to compare Obrigado to last year's Oak Tree Derby winner, Aragorn.

Aragorn has been a star for Drysdale this year, winning four consecutive major stakes. He is the leading American-based contender for the Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.

Last year, Aragorn was making his second start in the United States when he won the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby by a nose over Eastern Sand. Obrigado, a French-bred gelding, has more established form in this country, having made four starts this year.

In a sense, Obrigado has had two different campaigns, two starts at Hollywood Park and two at Del Mar. Obrigado was third in the Will Rogers Stakes and fifth in the Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park. He showed improved form at Del Mar, winning a division of the Oceanside Stakes and finishing a fast-closing second in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 3.

The two Del Mar starts have left Drysdale encouraged about Obrigado's fall campaign.

"I'm pleased with him," Drysdale said. "I think he's just improved. He's coming around."

Drysdale said his long-term goal for Obrigado is the $500,000 Hollywood Derby at 1 1/4 miles on turf at Hollywood Park on Nov. 26.

In a way, a win in that race would take Obrigado out of Aragorn's shadow. Last fall, Aragorn was not able to run in the Hollywood Derby - the race was not contested after Hollywood Park's turf course failed to take root after being resodded in the summer of 2005.

Owned by Gary Seidler and Peter Vegso, Obrigado faces a moderate field in the Oak Tree Derby, which is run at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Other probable starters are A. P. Warrior, Dark Islander, Icy Ridge, Potential, and Refinery.

A. P. Warrior may go favored. Trained by John Shirreffs, A. P. Warrior has not started since winning his turf debut in the Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar in August. Earlier this year, A. P. Warrior won the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes and finished 18th in the Kentucky Derby.

A. P. Warrior was held out of the Del Mar Derby because Shirreffs did not want to run the colt on Del Mar's turf course more than once, preferring to wait for the Oak Tree Derby.

Horse Greeley out for the year

Horse Greeley, the winner of the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity last month and the beaten favorite in the Norfolk Breeders' Cup Stakes last Sunday, will not start again this year because of concern over the condition of his ankles, trainer Richard Mandella said Wednesday.

Monday, Mandella declared Horse Greeley from consideration for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Wednesday, Mandella said Horse Greeley will be pointed for a 3-year-old campaign in 2007, pending the results of a nuclear scan and possible X-rays scheduled for later this week.

"It's just a matter of knowing if something is really wrong," Mandella said of the tests. "Otherwise, we'll take it easy and point him for next year."

Mandella said that even if Horse Greeley gets a clean medical record he will not start at the Hollywood Park fall meeting. Mandella wants to give Horse Greeley a chance to mature mentally. Horse Greeley pulled early in the Norfolk, raced wide throughout, and finished seventh. Jockey Victor Espinoza did not urge him through the stretch when he was well behind.

Wednesday, Mandella was hopeful that Horse Greeley would emerge from the tests without an injury.

"He had a filling in his ankle and it's almost gone," Mandella said.

Balance working toward comeback

Balance, the winner of two Grade 1 stakes for 3-year-old fillies this year, has resumed serious training after being given the summer off. Owned by Amerman Racing and trained by David Hofmans, Balance has not started since finishing 11th in the Kentucky Oaks in May. She underwent surgery after that race to have a bone chip removed from an ankle.

Hofmans said that Balance has trained well over Hollywood Park's new synthetic surface.

Last Sunday, Balance worked three furlongs in 39 seconds, her first workout since returning to training. Hofmans said that Balance actually breezed a quarter-mile, but was given an official time for that workout when the gallop-out was included.

"She's ahead of where I thought she'd be," Hofmans said.

A winner of 4 of 8 starts and $570,159, Balance won the Las Virgenes Stakes and Santa Anita Oaks last winter.

Declan's Moon drills four furlongs

Declan's Moon, the champion 2-year-old male of 2004, worked a half-mile in 46.80 seconds on Wednesday at Hollywood Park, the quickest of 34 recorded works at the distance.

Owned by Mace and Samantha Siegel and trained by Ron Ellis, Declan's Moon has made two starts this year, finishing second in an optional claimer at Hollywood Park in July and finishing last of seven in the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Handicap at Del Mar in August.

Those races are the only losses in Declan's Moon's seven-race career, which includes four stakes wins and earnings of $638,300. Ellis is pointing Declan's Moon for a winter campaign.

Sale topper from '04 wins maiden

Dr. Sinatra, who sold for a sale-topping $250,000 at the 2004 Del Mar yearling sale, beat maidens easily in Monday's third race.

Owned by CRK Stables and trained by John Sadler, Dr. Sinatra ran six furlongs in 1:08.92. Ridden by Tyler Baze, Dr. Sinatra was making his third start. He won by 5 1/4 lengths over Brite Shadow.

Dr. Sinatra is a California-bred by Bertrando.

* Sunday's featured race is the $100,000 Harold Ramser Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at a mile on the grass. Sol Mi Fa, the winner of the Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Oaks in her U.S. debut in May, is a leading contender.