03/21/2006 1:00AM

Prep for Oaks not on Wild Fit's agenda

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Dan Hendricks says Brother Derek's lead-up to the Santa Anita Derby is going smoothly.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Wild Fit might not get the distance, but she will be a fresh filly when she makes her next start May 5 in the Kentucky Oaks. Trainer Patrick Biancone said Tuesday that Wild Fit will forgo a final prep race and go straight to the Oaks.

The 54-day interval between starts is of less concern than the 1 1/8-mile distance. Favored in all three of her two-turn races, Wild Fit is 0 for 3 in them, including her most recent start, March 12, when she finished a distant third in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks at 1 1/16 miles.

Biancone is unwilling to concede that Wild Fit has distance limitations. He said Wild Fit "does not run like a horse who does not stay."

Wild Fit closed from last to second on Feb. 11, beaten one length by Balance, in the one-mile Las Virgenes Stakes. In her next start, in the Santa Anita Oaks, Wild Fit raced wide and finished third, 5 1/2 lengths behind Balance.

"We have no excuse - she was beaten," Biancone said. "Balance was better, and now we will try the Kentucky Oaks."

Two main prep races remain for the Kentucky Oaks - the Grade 1 Ashland on April 8 at Keeneland and the Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes on April 14 at Oaklawn. Biancone gave reasons for skipping both.

"The Fantasy is a Grade 2, and the Ashland, I don't think the track will fit her," he said. "That's why the decision to wait for the Oaks was easy."

Wild Fit won the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante at seven furlongs last summer, finished second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, and has won two races and $518,600 from six starts.

Balance, meanwhile, recovered so quickly from the Santa Anita Oaks that trainer David Hofmans is considering running her at Keeneland.

"We're leaning toward the Ashland, she bounced out of [the Oaks] so well," Hofmans said Tuesday. "I'll breeze her this weekend, then we'll make a decision."

Balance has won four races and $513,300 from six starts and emerged as the country's top-ranked 3-year-old filly this winter, winning two Grade 1's. Santa Anita Oaks runner-up Quiet Kim is on target for the Fantasy.

Easy work for Brother Derek

Brother Derek dodged the latest Southern California rainstorm, which arrived late Monday, by working an easy half-mile in 49.40 seconds, breezing, Monday morning at Santa Anita. Trainer Dan Hendricks described the work as "just a little half-mile to stretch his legs; it looked like a fast gallop."

It was the first breeze for Brother Derek since his March 4 win in the Grade 2 Santa Catalina, and puts Brother Derek on a steady work pattern leading to the Santa Anita Derby on April 8.

Hendricks said Brother Derek will have a longer workout Saturday or Sunday, followed by another workout the weekend of April 1.

"Everything has gone according to plan," Hendricks said. "We haven't had any hiccups. You just cross your fingers and hope you can go that way a while longer."

Brother Derek will enter the Santa Anita Derby and subsequent Triple Crown races as a fresh horse. His win on March 4 was his first start since Jan. 14.

"Even though he's run straight through since Del Mar, he's not over-raced, and he is not overworked," Hendricks said. "He's fresh and sound; everything's right on schedule."

Brother Derek won the Santa Catalina by 1 3/4 lengths over rapidly improving Sacred Light, who worked Tuesday morning at Hollywood Park. Hofmans said Sacred Light worked solo at 7:45 a.m., was timed in 1:13.60, and will have a major workout next week in preparation for the Santa Anita Derby.

House of Fortune recovers from illness

House of Fortune returned to trainer Ron McAnally's barn at Santa Anita this week after spending three weeks in a veterinary clinic after a severe bout of colic. McAnally said she had a twisted colon that was corrected, and that House of Fortune had "lost some weight" but otherwise appears fine. House of Fortune unleashed a career-best performance Jan. 28 in the Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream Park, winning by more than six lengths while earning a 105 Beyer.

McAnally said that Grade 1-placed turf runner Fast and Furious had a foot problem alleviated by renowned foot specialist Ian McKinley after the 5-year-old scored an impressive last-to-first classified allowance win Feb. 16. Fast and Furious remains on target for the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap on April 8, followed by the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs.

Sweet Return is nearing a comeback for McAnally after being sidelined by a splint injury last fall. Winner of three Grade 1's - the Hollywood Derby, Eddie Read, and Charles Whittingham Memorial - Sweet Return had his second six-furlong workout last week.

Old Thunder, a promising 3-year-old turf colt who missed the Pasadena Stakes with a pulled muscle, has resumed training; Charm the Giant is nearing a comeback after winning three straight races last summer.

Grey Swallow's status uncertain

The Dermot Weld-trained Grey Swallow is the 122-pound topweight for the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on turf Saturday, but racing officials said it was unclear if the Group 1 winner would ship from Europe. Meanwhile, Bobby Frankel-trained King's Drama only has to ship from Hollywood Park. He finished third in his Feb. 26 comeback in the San Luis Obispo at 1 1/4 miles, and should improve with that race under his belt. Other expected San Luis Rey starters include San Luis Obispo winner Atlando, 117; T. H. Approval, 116; Bullistic, 113; Wild Buddy, 113; and One Off, 112.

Silver Cup and Moscow Burning both were assigned 118-pound top weight for the Grade 2 Santa Ana Handicap on Sunday. The field of fillies and mares for the 1 1/8-mile turf race is expected to include Ticker Tape, Argentina, Katdogawn, Beautyandthebeast, Royal Copenhagen, and Eternal Melody.

* The meet's leading jockey, Patrick Valenzuela, is expected to ride through the weekend, despite a three-day suspension that was scheduled to begin Friday. Valenzuela's agent, Tom Knust, said a hearing was scheduled for Tuesday at the Los Angeles Superior Court that he believed would result in a stay of the suspension pending an appeal.