04/13/2006 11:00PM

Sacred Light awaits Derby fate

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Big Cap winner Lava Man will likely switch to turf for his next start.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Sacred Light, who finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby last weekend, remains on course for the Kentucky Derby on May 6, if he can gain a berth into the field.

Owned by John and Jerry Amerman and trained by David Hofmans, Sacred Light was ranked 23rd in graded-stakes earnings among the Kentucky Derby hopefuls through Friday. With graded stakes run in Arkansas and Kentucky on Saturday for 3-year-olds, Hofmans fears that Sacred Light could slip further in the rankings.

If more than 20 horses seek to enter the Kentucky Derby, the field is limited to the top 3-year-olds ranked by graded stakes earnings.

Still, Hofmans is holding out hope to gain a berth. "We're on the outside looking in," he said.

Sacred Light is scheduled to be shipped to Kentucky later this month, and could start in the $100,000 American Turf Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on turf on May 5 if he fails to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby.

"It depends on whether we can get in or not," Hofmans said.

The Amermans and Hofmans will start Balance in the Kentucky Oaks on May 5. She finished third in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland last weekend but has emerged from the race in good condition, Hofmans said.

"We've had both of them checked out thoroughly," Hofmans said. "Balance is on track for the Kentucky Oaks. I'll work her next week."

O'Neill pair await statebred spots

Sam's Ace, fourth in the Florida Derby on April 1, is likely to skip the Kentucky Derby and top handicap star Lava Man will pass the Pimlico Special in May in favor of stakes for California-breds at Hollywood Park on April 30, trainer Doug O'Neill said.

Sam's Ace will be pointed for the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles, the feature race on the California Gold Rush program.

Lava Man, who won the Sunshine Millions Classic in January and the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 4, will start in the $150,000 Khaled Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf on the undercard.

Sam's Ace still has a remote chance of starting in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 22 in a final opportunity to gain the necessary graded stakes earnings for the Kentucky Derby, but O'Neill said that he and owners Paul Reddam and Aron Wellman were leaning away from that plan earlier this week.

If Sam's Ace runs well in the Snow Chief Stakes, he could be considered for the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20. Alex Solis will ride Sam's Ace in the Snow Chief, O'Neill said.

Regarding Lava Man, O'Neill and principal owners Steve Kenly and Jason Wood decided against shipping to Baltimore. They have the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup in July as a long-term goal for Lava Man.

Dissent over purse redistribution

The purse of a $48,000 maiden race here in January 2003 was ordered redistributed by Santa Anita stewards Scott Chaney, George Slender, and Tom Ward on Thursday after postrace urine tests taken from race winner Dyna da Wyna tested positive for the prohibited antihistamine medication hydroxyzine/cetirizine.

But the ruling featured the rare instance of a steward dissenting in the opinion.

Chaney, a former assistant trainer who has been a steward in California for less than one year, wrote in a one-paragraph opinion that he did not disagree with the positive test finding from the laboratory at UC-Davis but that the stewards should not have issued the ruling since they did not conduct a hearing or take evidence in the matter.

In his opinion, Chaney wrote "the rules are clear that this is the type of positive that must result in a disqualification and redistribution."

In conclusion, Chaney wrote, "This order is more appropriately issued by the California Horse Racing Board rather than a board of stewards."

Owner Alan Klein, trainer Michael Machowsky, and jockey Victor Espinoza were ordered to return the winner's share of $28,800. Purses are redistributed in cases with positive tests for class 1, 2, or 3 drugs. Hydroxyzine/cetirizine is a class 3 drug.

The purse will be redistributed to the second- through sixth-place finishers - Quero Quero, Bruheria, J's Crafty Cat, Golden Penny, and Bold Gypsy.

Espinoza, Pedroza get days

Espinoza and Martin Pedroza have been given three-day suspensions for causing interference on Wednesday's program. Both suspensions run from Thursday through Saturday.

Espinoza was cited for failing to maintain a straight course aboard Fear No Darkness, who finished second but was disqualified and placed third in the seventh race.

Pedroza was cited for causing interference aboard Capecloakand-dagger in the third race. There was no disqualification.

The ruling could affect Espinoza's chances of winning the riding title. Through Thursday, he led the standings with 72 wins, two more than Patrick Valenzuela. Garrett Gomez is in third place with 65 wins.

French import sharpens for San Juan

A new shooter from France will try to upset T.H. Approval in the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano on April 23, closing day of the Santa Anita winter meet. T.H. Approval seeks his second straight win in the 1 3/4-mile San Juan. He will face Quinquin the King, who will make his U.S. debut for trainer Bob Hess. Based on his first workout with jockey Corey Nakatani on the Santa Anita turf, the 4-year-old likes his new surroundings.

"Corey worked him, loved him, and committed right after the work," Hess said. "We found a horse that can get the trip, and explode late."

Quinquin the King won 4 of 21 starts and $139,145 in France while racing in handicap races that are comparable to minor stakes in the U.S. He finished third in his most recent start March 23 at Longchamp.

- additional reporting by Brad Free