04/09/2008 12:00AM

Salute the Sarge playing safe


ARCADIA, Calif. - Salute the Sarge, the winner of three sprint stakes, including the San Miguel Stakes on March 29, remains on course for the $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 19, but is doubtful for the Kentucky Derby on May 3, trainer Eric Guillot said on Wednesday.

Guillot said he would like to start Salute the Sarge in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 17, the second leg of the Triple Crown, if the colt runs well in the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes over 1 1/16 miles.

The decision to bypass the Kentucky Derby has ramifications among the horses on the earnings bubble for the race. A winner of 4 of 7 starts and $333,340, Salute the Sarge has earned $258,940 in graded stakes, which would almost certainly assure him a berth in the Kentucky Derby. Graded earnings is the determining factor on who makes the field if the race draws more than 20 horses.

The San Miguel Stakes is Salute the Sarge's only start this year, and Guillot said he didn't think the colt would be ready for the Derby.

"If he runs well in the Lexington, I'll go to the Preakness," Guillot said. "I don't think he's a mile-and-a-quarter horse."

Last year, Salute the Sarge won two sprint stakes and was second in the Norfolk Stakes and ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The Norfolk and BC Juvenile were over 1 1/16 miles. Guillot said he's still not sure whether Salute the Sarge can be effective around two turns.

"I've got to find out if he can route," Guillot said. "Before when he routed, he was sore."

Guillot said that even if Salute the Sarge ran brilliantly in the Lexington Stakes that the Kentucky Derby would remain unlikely.

"I think I've got my partner convinced that it's not the right thing," he said of Salute the Sarge's owner, Michael Moreno.

The Guillot-trained Signature Move, who finished last in the Santa Anita Derby last Saturday, has been turned out for four months because of lung problems.

"His lungs are stressed," Guillot said. "He'll be a good horse in the fall."

Coast Guard, Polonius to go on turf

Coast Guard and Polonius, third and ninth in the Santa Anita Derby, will make their next start on turf.

Coast Guard, who finished 1 1/2 lengths behind the race's winner, Colonel John, is being considered for the $150,000 Crown Royal American Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 2, trainer David Hofmans said. Another option is the $100,000 Will Rogers Stakes at Hollywood Park on May 17.

"There are a lot of grass races around the country," Hofmans said. "We have to hash it out."

Owned by Amerman Racing, Coast Guard has yet to win a stakes, a factor in the decision to bypass the Kentucky Derby, Hofmans said.

"If he had another race we might consider it," he said.

Polonius was third on the turn in the Santa Anita Derby, but faded through the final quarter-mile in his synthetic track debut. He will be pointed for the Will Rogers Stakes.

"Maybe he's a middle-distance turf horse," trainer Michael Pender said."We know that he's not a synthetic horse."

Owned by B.J. Wright, Polonius has won 2 of 4 starts and $79,020. He won the Pasadena Stakes on turf at Santa Anita in March.

Georgie Boy to get further tests

Georgie Boy, who was taken out of consideration for the Santa Anita Derby and Triple Crown on March 31 because of a pulled back muscle, is showing improvement and will undergo further tests later this month, trainer Kathy Walsh said.

"He's coming around pretty good," Walsh said. "Maybe you err on the side of caution more than you should."

Walsh said that Georgie Boy would undergo a nuclear scan test later this month to better determine his condition. No timetable has been set for a return to racing.

Georgie Boy won the San Felipe Stakes in March to become a leading contender for the Santa Anita Derby. The injury was detected at the start of Santa Anita Derby week, a few days after Georgie Boy had a workout.

Owned by George Schwary, Georgie Boy has won 4 of 7 starts and $496,806.

Top riders scatter

Jockey David Flores, fourth in the Santa Anita standings, will be the highest-ranking rider here on Saturday.

Garrett Gomez, the leader, and runner-up Rafael Bejarano will be riding at Keeneland. Tyler Baze, who is in third place, is riding Tres Borrachos in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on Saturday.

Gomez is gone for the remainder of the meeting, which ends on April 20, while Bejarano and Baze return to ride at Santa Anita on Sunday.

Flores has the mount on Phantom Strike in Saturday's top race, the $100,000 La Puente Stakes for 3-year-olds over a mile on turf. Phantom Strike is making his stakes debut after winning a maiden special weight race over a mile on turf in February for owners Al and Sandee Kirkwood and trainer Tim Yakteen.

The field of 12 lacks a standout, but does include the stakes winners Ez Dreamer (Rattlesnake Stakes at Turf Paradise), and Nevada Worrier (Cavonnier Stakes at Santa Anita).

The race will be the turf stakes debut of No Jepordy, who was third in the Borderland Derby and fourth in the WinStar Derby at Sunland Park in his last two starts. No Jepordy had the lead at the eighth pole in the WinStar Derby, but faded in the final furlong of the 1 1/8-mile race.

"He gave us a thrill turning for home," trainer Doug O'Neill said.

Owned by Paul Reddam, No Jepordy won a maiden special weight race on turf at Santa Anita on Feb. 2.

"He's shown that he likes the grass," O'Neill said.

Conformation clinic

The Thoroughbred Owners of California is conducting a free conformation clinic at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Clocker's Corner at Santa Anita.

The clinic provides participants a chance to learn more about the training and conformation of Thoroughbreds through a presentation and a stable tour. Reservations can be made by calling (626) 574-6620.