09/20/2006 11:00PM

Refinery finally gets his derby


POMONA, Calif. - Refinery was one race away from the Santa Anita Derby, until a bruised foot and a subpar effort in the Grade 2 San Felipe in March knocked him off the derby trail.

Refinery can still become a derby winner, on a smaller scale. The Richard Mandella trained-colt is one of seven good 3-year-olds entered in the $100,000 Pomona Derby on Saturday at Fairplex Park.

The field includes sprinter Northern Soldier, local Derby Trial runner-up Gimme S'mor, improving allowance runner Quebec Citizen, front-runner The Five J's, closer Two Trails, and Sensational Score.

For some, the 1 1/8-mile Pomona Derby is the only alternative.

"The shortage of middle-distance races in California is a problem," Mandella said. "Where else am I going to run a mile and an eighth against his own age group? I'm out of options."

That is not necessarily a bad thing, because the Pomona Derby is a race Refinery actually has a good chance to win. Owned by B. Wayne Hughes, the colt has won three races and $117,360 from eight starts, and his agility is one reason Mandella will ship over from his Santa Anita base.

"When you go to Pomona, you have to have a handy horse," Mandella said, referring to the five-eighth-mile track. Refinery, he said, "seems to be that type."

After four months off because of a bruised foot, Refinery finished sixth in a comeback sprint, then stretched out and parlayed a rail trip to victory in a modest second-condition allowance.

Tyler Baze has ridden Refinery in all eight starts, and is up again on the colt, from post 7. Based on his modest speed figures (Refinery earned an 89 Beyer last out), he enters without an advantage. He can win if he runs back to the 96 he earned in February.

Quebec Citizen is qualified to win the Pomona Derby based on a hard-luck runner-up finish one month ago on the Del Mar turf, and a rapidly improving pattern. Bred in Brazil and foaled in August, Quebec Citizen came around rapidly this summer.

He followed a runaway maiden win Aug. 16 with a second-place finish 10 days later after steadying sharply at the three-eighths. The lightly raced Quebec Citizen handles turf or dirt, and might be the one to beat in just his seventh start. Omar Berrio rides for trainer A.C. Avila.

Gimme S'mor finished third here 12 days ago in the Derby Trial, which was his first start for trainer Doug O'Neill. He is a threat on the front end, depending on how much pressure The Five J's applies.