04/09/2007 12:00AM

Rhoden back in the action with a winner


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Last Friday, Val Rhoden won her first race as a trainer in more than a decade when R Spring Affair won a $12,500 claiming sprint on the Bay Meadows turf.

Rhoden, 55, started in the business working with her mother, Doris Merrill, at tracks in the Northwest. Starting in the mid-1980's, she was the primary Northern California trainer for Rancho San Miguel.

She retired from training and went to work in operations at Northern California tracks for 13 years, building seniority and a pension. But, she said, "I knew I had to get back to horses in some way."

She considered managing a farm for lay-ups but wanted to be part of the action.

Rhoden resumed training last year. She was 0 for 17 in 2006 and was 0 for 10 this year when she entered R Spring Affair in Friday's race, his turf debut. She had claimed the 4-year-old gelding on Jan. 21 for $10,000 for herself and Kristen Finkel, a member of the Golden Gate Fields marketing department, and saw him run a troubled second for a $20,000 claiming price at Santa Anita in his first start for her.

"I checked his pedigree, and his mother had made money on the turf," Rhoden said. "It's a little nerve-wracking wondering if they'll like the turf. He broke good, then Russell [Baze] had him pretty much in hand. When he swung out for room, I thought he'd win."

And he did, beating Roster by a head to send Rhoden to the winner's circle for the first time in over a decade as Finkel got her first win as an owner.

Bwana Bill a Derby hopeful no more

Bwana Bull, fifth in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby, is off the Kentucky Derby trail, according to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

Asked if he felt disappointed after the race, Hollendorfer said, "Yes, I was. I don't really have any excuse."

Asked if he were still considering the Kentucky Derby, Hollendorfer said, "I don't think that's possible now."

Rosario staying for now

Jockey Joel Rosario, second in the standings here behind Baze, will stay in Northern California through the remainder of the Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields meetings.

His agent, Vic Stauffer, said Rosario will ride in Southern California on occasion and then may head to Del Mar when the Golden Gate summer meeting is over.

"He'll be riding at Hollywood Park on Gold Rush Day aboard Zoning In and Gentle Charmer, and he may pick up a couple more mounts," Stauffer said.

Stauffer is the track announcer at Hollywood Park, so Rosario will need a new agent when that meet begins April 25.

Barber returns a winner

On Sunday, Barber returned from a 10-month layoff by winning a six-furlong $62,500 optional claimer. The stakes-placed Barber broke in a tangle but made the lead under Juan Ochoa. Blue Eyed Blond almost pulled even at the eighth pole, but Barber beat him home.

"He got a little hot in the paddock, and I was a little concerned because he broke a bit slowly," said Steve Sherman, who saddled the 4-year-old Barber for his father, Art Sherman. "He got out a little slow, but he recovered quickly. He likes to eyeball horses, and it was nice the way he finished strong."

BC Oaks picture unclear

Adoradora, who has competed in three stakes during her five-race career, is the lone confirmed entrant for Saturday's $100,000 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.

Patrick Gallagher said that Jungle Girl, who just graduated for a $75,000 claiming price in her first try around two turns, was "possible" for the race.

Hollendorfer nominated Eastlake Avenue and Glorification, one-two in the California Oaks at Golden Gate Fields; Forest Huntress, who is coming off a Santa Anita allowance win at the distance; and Round Trip Flight, winner of a turf allowance race here in her last start.

$32K already in pick six pot

Wednesday's card will be spiced up by a $32,014 pick six carryover.

Four maiden races (one of them a $32,000 sprint), a $4,000 claimer in which Proud Phil will be gunning for his fourth straight victory, and a $40,000 starter allowance sprint make up the pick six sequence.

In the starter allowance, recent maiden winners Funny Papers and Royal Bertando will be taking on Redman, a runner-up in both starts at the level, and Spunky Harry, whose recent route fractions make him a contender as well.

* Bay Meadows has increased its overnight purses by 3.75 percent retroactive to opening day. The increase will be in effect for the entire meet, which concludes Aprilo22. An increase in the average daily all-sources handle led to the increase.

* Jockey Kevin Radke was given a three-day suspension for causing interference in the stretch with Kristine's King in the fourth race on April 1. Radke's suspension begins Wednesday, meaning he will not ride again until Saturday.

* Juan Ochoa also received a three-day suspension, to begin Friday, for causing interference in last Thursday's eighth race aboard La Campanita, who was disqualified from third to fifth.