04/03/2010 12:00AM

Rail Trip nears comeback

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Benoit & Associates
Rail Trip is being pointed for a defenseof his Hollywood Gold Cup title.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Rail Trip, the winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup last July, is nearing a comeback at the upcoming Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting, and trainer Ron Ellis is raving about his condition.

Unraced since finishing third in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar last September, Rail Trip has been working steadily at Hollywood Park and is being pointed for the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on May 8. Ellis hopes to use the race as a prep for the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 10. Rail Trip won the in the best performance of his career.

"He's perfect and right on schedule," Ellis said on Friday.

Owned by Mace and Samantha Siegel, Rail Trip, has never been worse than third in nine starts, winning six races and $787,790. Last year, Rail Trip lost for the first time in his career in the Mervyn LeRoy, his sixth start, but won the Gold Cup two races later.

Last fall, Rail Trip was under consideration for the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita, but was declared from the race in late October because of a bruised foot. At that time, Ellis said Rail Trip would be rested for the winter.

McPeek gone, but may return

Trainer Kenneth McPeek disbanded his stable at Santa Anita last week, moving the team back to Kentucky, but said he may return to California. McPeek, who is based in Kentucky, said he may have starters at Del Mar this summer.

He said part of the reason for the departure is the uncertainty over the type of surface that will be in place at Santa Anita later this year. Santa Anita officials said earlier this year the existing Pro-Ride synthetic surface, which has had drainage problems leading to the cancellation of five racing days this year because of wet weather, could be replaced with another surface, possibly dirt. Track chairman Frank Stronach backed away from that statement in February, saying he wants the state to establish a more favorable economic climate for operating a racetrack before further investment is made on racing surfaces.

"I'd like to get some clarification of what they're doing," McPeek said. "I'd like to have horses out there next winter."

McPeek's Santa Anita meeting was highlighted by Striking Dancer's win in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes for 4-year-old fillies in February and third-place finishes by Sudden War in the San Luis Obispo and San Luis Rey handicaps.

McPeek is one of five nationally prominent stables to leave Santa Anita in recent weeks, joined by those of Christophe Clement, Graham Motion, Bill Mott and Todd Pletcher. Their stables arrived last fall and winter for the Santa Anita meeting.

John Forsythe dies at 92

Actor John Forsythe, a Thoroughbred owner and a host of the Eclipse Awards in the 1980s, died on Thursday. He was 92.

Forsythe died as his home in Santa Ynez, Calif., from complications of pneumonia, according to published reports.

Aside from operating a racing stable under the name Big Train Farm, Forsythe was a member of the Hollywood Park board of directors in the late 1980s. In 1988, he was honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit for special contribution to racing.

* Apprentice jockey Geovanni Franco rode his first winner at Santa Anita in Friday's fourth race, Sidepocket Lou ($8.40). A native of Mexico, where he began his career, Franco, 19, started riding at Santa Anita last month; Sidepocket Lou was his eighth mount.