11/14/2005 1:00AM

Robledo drops to prep for Native Diver

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - It took more than two years to get Robledo back to the races, and after an initial misstep, he has turned in two excellent efforts, including a second-place finish in the Hinds Invitational at Fairplex in his last start.

is taking a step back on Wednesday at Hollywood Park, into a third-level allowance race, but it is a means to an end for trainer Vladimir Cerin, who would like to use Wednesday's seventh race as a springboard for Robledo to the Grade 3, $100,000 Native Diver Handicap on Dec. 10.

"If he runs well, that would be the goal, the Native Diver," Cerin said Sunday at Hollywood Park.

Robledo faces five rivals in the day's $51,000 feature, which kicks off week two of the fall meeting. The 1 1/16-mile race drew a pair of runners trained by Doug O'Neill - Brecon Beacon and Dover Dere - and Bully Hayes, who has won three of his last four starts.

Robledo was a promising 3-year-old in the spring of 2003, when he won the Turf Paradise Derby. But then a series of unfortunate events kept him off the track from February 2003 until July of this year.

"He had a stress fracture behind, then he had a quarter crack that kept him off for three months, and when he got over that, he had a splint and was out for another six months," Cerin said. "He never had anything really major. He has been a very frustrating horse, but he's a very talented horse."

Robledo ran poorly in his comeback race at Del Mar, but then was second to Preachinatthebar in a strong allowance race at Del Mar, and followed that up with a neck loss to Courtly Jazz in the Hinds Invitational.

"He ran a very good race," Cerin said. "He got stuck inside at Fairplex, and he didn't really handle the tight turns. He's more of a major-track horse. And the winner of that race was much the best."

was third in the Oak Tree Derby in his first start for O'Neill and in this country. He is moving from turf to dirt, but in his lone previous try on dirt - at Lingfield in England in April - he finished second in a listed stakes race.

captured the Pomona Derby at Fairplex in his last start. This will be his first start against older runners.

Bully Hayes, 5, took until May of this year to get to the races, but he has come a long way quickly. He most recently won a second-level allowance race at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.