04/24/2005 12:00AM

Robador upsets Snow Chief Stakes


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - A last-minute change in strategy led to an upset win by 23-1 Robador in Sunday's $250,000 at Hollywood Park, the featured race on the California Gold Rush program for state-breds.

Entering the race as a maiden after seven starts, Robador benefited from a quick early pace, closing from ninth in the field of 12 to win by a half-length over top contender Lucky J.H.

Top This and That, a 16-1 shot, finished third in the field of 12. Thor's Echo, the winner of the WinStar Derby at Sunland Park on April 12, finished fourth in the field of 12.

Robador had raced near the front against maidens, but trainer Eoin Harty and jockey Jose Valdivia decided to bring the colt from off the pace in the Snow Chief, his stakes debut.

"I figured the distance might be suspect for some of these," Harty said.

The gameplan worked to perfection after several top contenders were part of a quick pace of 22.79 and 46.14 seconds. Thor's Echo and second choice Texcess were near the front until the end of the backstretch when Thor's Echo took the lead.

Lucky J.H., a 6-1 shot, rallied from fifth to reach the front on the final turn. He led into the final furlong, but could not hold off Robador who made up 6 1-2 lengths in the last three furlongs. Robador ($48.60) finished 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.40.

"It really set up great for this horse," Valdivia said. "We changed his style a little bit, letting him see what he can pick up from behind. He started picking up steam and the other horses started coming back to me."

Owned by Barbara Walter, Robador has earned $221,646.