02/18/2009 12:00AM

Rail Trip delays move to stakes


ARCADIA, Calif. - The Santa Anita Handicap had been under consideration, perhaps even the Dubai World Cup. Even the San Carlos Handicap got thrown into the mix. But when trainer Ron Ellis was presented with the opportunity to run the unbeaten Rail Trip one last time in an allowance race on Friday before heading into stakes company, he seized it.

"I just think he needs a little more experience before facing those kinds of horses," Ellis said Wednesday morning at Santa Anita.

Rail Trip, who has won his first three starts by a combined 12 1/2 lengths, tops a field of five entered in Friday's second race, a third-level allowance going 1 1/16 miles. After winning two sprints at Hollywood Park, each time by 3 1/2 lengths, Rail Trip stretched out last time to beat a second-level allowance field by 5 1/2 lengths going 1 1/16 miles. Favored in all three of his races and odds-on in his last two, he figures to be a short price again Friday.

"I want him to get tested a bit. I think he needs the experience of good horses hooking him," Ellis said as he watched Rail Trip school in the starting gate in the quarter-mile chute.

Friday's race, however, figures to be another stroll in the park for Rail Trip. Three of his rivals have absolutely no early speed. The only other horse with contending early speed is Booyah, who finished fourth in a third-level allowance race on turf on Jan. 18. Booyah's rider, Joe Talamo, is not prone to wildly sending his horses to the front. Jose Valdivia Jr. once again will be on Rail Trip.

After Rail Trip won his last start, Ellis contemplated where to run next. He figured he would have to go in a stakes race, but then the condition book came out with an allowance race to which Rail Trip was eligible.

"I just think going right into the Big Cap would have been throwing him to the wolves," Ellis said. "This is probably a better race than going a mile and a quarter off just three starts."

It is not in Ellis's style to bring a horse back in 16 days for a race, so a start March 7 in the Santa Anita Handicap following Friday's race would seem unlikely.

"I wouldn't say it's out," Ellis said. "Let's see what happens first."

A good race Friday, though, would give Rail Trip plenty of time between starts were he to go to Dubai for the World Cup on March 28.