02/28/2008 1:00AM

Puype confident in Gorgeous Goose


ARCADIA, Calif. - Go ahead and ring Gorgeous Goose as the winner of Saturday's $90,000 China Doll Stakes at Santa Anita. That's the way trainer Mike Puype sees the race.

"It's not a tough spot, put it that way," Puype said. "We'll have to see if she's the real deal on Saturday."

Puype has a right to be confident. Gorgeous Goose was a convincing winner of the Blue Norther Stakes over a mile on turf for 2-year-old fillies on Dec. 30. More than two months later, Gorgeous Goose returns as a heavy favorite in the China Doll, run over a mile for 3-year-old fillies.

"I knew after that last race this would be my next start," Puype said. "This is what I wanted. It's the only place to run. I wasn't going to put her on the main track.

"She's always trained pretty forwardly from the get-go. Her works have been good. I could have kept the last few works a little slower, but I didn't want her to be a short horse."

Owned by breeders Mary Anne Denes and Mary Ellen Woelfel, Gorgeous Goose has won 2 of 4 starts and is unbeaten on turf, beginning with a maiden race at Hollywood Park in November. Since the Blue Norther, Gorgeous Goose has shown quick workouts over six and seven furlongs on the main track at Hollywood Park.

Gorgeous Goose is a stalker who will be in pursuit of expected pacesetter Czechers, the winner of an optional claimer over a mile on turf on Feb. 11 in her grass debut.

The field of seven includes two recent maiden race winners, Miss Fremont and Sweeter Still; Carnival Queen, who was third in an optional claimer on Jan. 18; the European import Dajolie; and Hottodi, who was third in a starter allowance on Jan. 21 and is making her turf debut.

Lava Man eyes Khaled Stakes

Lava Man, the winner of the 2006 and 2007 Santa Anita Handicap, will be about 35 miles from Santa Anita when the race is run Saturday. Lava Man is based at Hollywood Park with trainer Doug O'Neill and resumed training earlier this month after being given a break of nearly three months following a series of poor performances in the second half of 2007.

O'Neill is optimistic that Lava Man can regain his old form. Owned by the Kenly family's STD Racing and Jason Wood, Lava Man, 7, has won 17 of 43 starts and $5,214,706. In 2007, he won 3 of 8 starts, a campaign highlighted by wins in the Santa Anita Handicap and his third consecutive win in the Hollywood Gold Cup.

After finishing sixth in the Pacific Classic, Oak Tree Mile, and California Cup Classic, Lava Man was given a rest.

"He's got real good energy and good weight," O'Neill said. "He's come back well. The game plan is to have a speed work in the middle of March.

"He's very full of himself. It's the sort of things we've seen over the years."

O'Neill is pointing Lava Man for stakes at Hollywood Park such as the $150,000 Khaled Stakes on April 27, the $250,000 Californian Stakes on May 31, and the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on June 28. Lava Man will be after an unprecedented fourth win in the Gold Cup.

The Khaled "is the short-term goal, but there is no urgency to make that," O'Neill said. "We won't screw up all the time we've given him off to rush him back."

Into Mischief to miss San Felipe

Into Mischief, the winner of the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park on Dec. 22, will miss the San Felipe Stakes on March 15 because of an ongoing foot problem, trainer Richard Mandella said on Thursday.

Mandella had been nursing Into Mischief's foot in recent weeks, hoping that the foot would improve.

"He won't be ready," Mandella said.

Mandella said it was unclear when Into Mischief would be fit to race, casting doubts on the colt's chances of starting in the Kentucky Derby on May 3.

Nakatani returns to saddle Sunday

Jockey Corey Nakatani, who has not ridden since Jan. 18 after suffering a collarbone injury during training hours on Jan. 19, is booked to return Sunday. Among his scheduled mounts is Sky Cape in the $100,000 Baldwin Stakes for 3-year-olds on the hillside turf course.

Nakatani has won 5 of 54 mounts at this meeting. He was in the stable area at Santa Anita on Thursday and said he is ready to return.

"I'm getting bored," he said.

Shirreffs nursing broken arm

John Shirreffs, who on Saturday sends out Tiago in the Santa Anita Handicap and Reflect Times in the Sham Stakes, has his left arm in a sling, the result of breaking that arm near the shoulder when kicked by a horse in his barn on Feb. 14.

"Both rear legs got me," said Shirreffs, who conceded he is lucky he was not hurt worse. "It goes to show you never can take your eye off the ball. The doctors said I would have to be like this for about six weeks."

Bert's Law targets Snow Chief Stakes

Bert's Law, the winner of an optional claimer Wednesday, will be pointed for the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-old statebreds at Hollywood Park on April 27, trainer Ed Moger Jr. said.

Ridden by Martin Garcia, Bert's Law rallied from last in a four-horse field to win Wednesday's one-mile optional claimer by a neck over Sassou. Bert's Law was timed in 1:39.10 over a track that has played slow in recent days.

Owned by Curt and Lila Lanning, Bert's Law has won 3 of 8 starts and $83,400. He was second to El Gato Malo in the Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate Fields on Dec. 15, but followed with a 10th-place finish in the California Derby on Jan. 27.

Moger said Bert's Law will stay with statebreds and will not run in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 5.

"It's tough to find a spot to race him," Moger said. "He's a good horse."

- additional reporting by Jay Privman