03/26/2007 12:00AM

Rags to Riches to stay facing fillies


ARCADIA, Calif. - The $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7 will be a race for the boys.

On Sunday, trainer Todd Pletcher said that the brilliant filly Rags to Riches will not start in the Santa Anita Derby and will be trained up to the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 4.

Since Rags to Riches won her second Grade 1 race of 2007 in the Santa Anita Oaks on March 11, Pletcher and owner Michael Tabor had given thought to the possibility that Rags to Riches might take on males in the Santa Anita Derby. But Pletcher said Sunday they opted for the Kentucky Oaks.

"She's a lightly raced filly and we felt it was a bit ambitious to try her against colts," Pletcher said. "We want to take the conservative route."

Rags to Riches is based at Hollywood Park, where she worked a half-mile in 50.80 seconds on Sunday.

"She's doing very well," Pletcher said. "We have loads of confidence in the filly."

Pletcher said he will have two starters in the Santa Anita Derby, which is run at 1 1/8 miles. He will be represented by Sam P., the runner-up in the Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on March 3, and King of the Roxy, the winner of the Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Marcho3.

Other candidates for the race include Bwana Bull, the winner of the El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows earlier this month; Liquidity, the runner-up in the Sham Stakes here in February; Black Seventeen; Level Red; Medici Code; and Tiago.

Song of Navarone, the winner of the WinStar Derby at Sunland Park, is battling a quarter crack and will not start in the Santa Anita Derby, trainer Henry Dominguez said.

Level Red, who finished third in the San Felipe Stakes, is on course for the Santa Anita Derby. Trainer David Hofmans said that the move of San Felipe winner Cobalt Blue to the Illinois Derby and an injury to top contender Ravel were a major factor in the decision to point Level Red for the Santa Anita Derby.

Level Red will add blinkers and will be ridden by Aaron Gryder, Hofmans said.

Field size up this year

Despite a recent drop, field sizes at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting are stronger this year than in 2006.

Through Saturday, the 64th day of the meeting, races have averaged 8.8 runners, a slight increase over 8.6 horses per race at the same point of the 2005-06 winter-spring meeting.

Santa Anita director of racing Mike Harlow is hoping the meeting can sustain its current levels and surpass the 2005-06 mark of 8.5 horses per race.

"It would be wonderful to be that high at the end of the meeting," Harlow said. "Last year, we were 8.5 horses and it was a very successful meeting."

Santa Anita had a strong January, at one point averaging 9.5 runners per race. Field sizes have not been as strong in recent weeks.

The week of March 14-18 had an average of 8.1 horses. Wednesday's eight-race program has drawn only 60 runners, or an average of 7.6 horses per races, a figure likely to drop when late scratches are included.

The recent drop in average is not a surprise, Harlow said. He said the weeks between the Santa Anita Handicap on March 3 and the Santa Anita Derby on April 7 are often slow for entries. He expects the Aprilo7 program to be very strong since the purses will receive a significant infusion from the California Marking Committee. When a similar one-day increase took place on Big Cap Day, the 11-race program had an average of 10 starters.

The current meeting has had mostly dry weather, and there has been widespread support from trainers based at Hollywood Park, where a synthetic surface has proved popular.

Santa Anita will install a synthetic surface this summer, which will be used for the first time at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting in the autumn.

Larger field sizes lead to higher handle. In late March 2006, Santa Anita increased purses for the second time at that meeting. This year, purses have not been increased during the meeting, but purses at the beginning of the meeting were higher than at the start of the 2005-06 meeting.

Harlow said that it is uncertain whether purses will be increased in coming weeks, but that a retroactive payment is possible once final figures are compiled at the conclusion of the meeting. He said that purses are currently underpaid, but that the final amount of the underpayment may not be sufficient to justify a retroactive payment.

"We haven't reached the point where we need to make an adjustment," he said. "If the meeting ended today, we would be on the border one way or another."

Sorenson undergoes hip surgery

Jockey Danny Sorenson underwent surgery on Sunday after breaking a hip during a training accident at Hollywood Park on Saturday.

It was unclear how much time Sorenson would need to recover from the injury, according to his agent, Brandon O'Bryan.

Sorenson, 49, has 9 winners from 96 mounts at this meeting.

Magnificience slated for Santa Paula

There are two $100,000 Grade 3 races at Santa Anita next weekend - Saturday's Tokyo City Handicap at 1o1/8 miles for older horses and Sunday's Santa Paula Stakes at 6o1/2 furlongs for 3-year-old fillies.

The Tokyo City nominees include Bob and John, the winner of the 2006 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. Trainer Bob Baffert said on Sunday that he was "on the fence" whether Bob and John would start in the Tokyo City.

The Santa Paula field will include the exciting maiden winner Magnificience, who won her debut by 6 1/2 lengths against sprinters on March 11.

* Two trainers were each fined $1,500 for scopolamine positives in accordance with agreements with the California Horse Racing Board, according to a CHRB release. Rene Amescua was fined for a positive test on the horse At a Boy Luther, who finished second in the fourth race at Hollywood Park on Dec. 1, 2005. Kevin Lewis was fined for a positive test on the horse Bless Idbyour Name, who finished first in the sixth race at Del Mar on Aug. 21, 2005. Also, a horse trained by Gary Stute, Theory, tested above the threshold limit for carbon dioxide after finishing third in the sixth race at Bay Meadows on Feb. 28, 2007. A hearing date has not been set.