04/02/2009 12:00AM

Sea of Pleasure clear speed of Potrero Grande


ARCADIA, Calif. - Fast sprinter Sea of Pleasure will have no early pressure Saturday at Santa Anita, while the only pressure on Rail Trip will be from bettors who take odds-on when the unbeaten allowance horse runs in his first stakes.

Sea of Pleasure and Rail Trip both look tough in separate races on the Santa Anita Derby program. Rail Trip is favored to make it 5 for 5 when he meets five rivals in race 4, the $85,000 Santana Mile; Sea of Pleasure will be loose out front in race 8, the Grade 2 Potrero Grande at a 6 1/2 furlongs.

Seven modest sprinters entered the $150,000 Potrero Grande, including Halo Najib, Six Pack Abs, Paul's Hope, and Davos. Along with Soul City Slew and Trumpet Player Jay, they all have to catch 3-for-8 Sea of Pleasure.

Jeff Mullins trains Sea of Pleasure, who was sidelined last summer when he was "sore behind," the trainer said. The colt's comeback workouts at Hollywood Park have been sensational - three successive bullet moves at five furlongs. And he figures to be loose out front.

Sea of Pleasure is the only true speed in the Potrero Grande, and though he lost both his previous starts at 6 1/2 furlongs, he also runs super fresh. He and jockey Garrett Gomez figure for an uncontested lead.

Trainer Mike Mitchell starts two horses Saturday for owner Ahmed Zayat - Z Day, a sacrificial rabbit in the Santa Anita Derby, and Halo Najib, who actually has a chance in the Potrero Grande. Runner-up to Georgie Boy in the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap on Feb. 21, Halo Najib is coming out of his skin, Mitchell said.

"Man, is he doing good," Mitchell said. "He's training really well for this."

Halo Najib has won 2 of 14 and will be running late under Rafael Bejarano.

Paul's Hope, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, has an upset chance returning to his favorite oval, even if his best races were on the old Santa Anita Cushion Track.

"He's run here 11 times, and he's been one-two seven times," assistant trainer Dan Ward said. "It is not all [because of] Cushion Track."

Paul's Hope has been freshened since finishing last in the $100,000 Phoenix Gold Cup on Feb. 14 at Turf Paradise.

"That was dirt, you can throw it out," Ward said.

Rail Trip to get tested?

Rail Trip won his first two starts in fast-paced sprints and has lived a charmed life around two turns. He set easy 48-and-change half-mile splits both times and won easily. When he runs in the Santana Mile, his trainer, Ron Ellis, hopes for a stronger test.

"He's finally going to get something going a little bit faster than a 48 half-mile," Ellis said. "That's concerned me, because going two turns he hasn't had to go very fast."

Ball Four is expected to set the pace, which means Rail Trip can sit second behind the speed. If he runs as expected, it will be the last easy spot for Rail Trip, who will enter the spring-summer meet at Hollywood Park as a leading candidate for the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy on May 9, the Grade 2 Californian on June 13, and the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 11.

"In those big races, he's going to have throw in a 46 or 47 half, and then keep going," Ellis said.

Jose Valdivia rides Rail Trip.

Hollendorfer-trained Dakota Phone is the class of the field, and assistant trainer Ward is right when he said Dakota Phone "has been running against better horses than Rail Trip." Fourth in the Grade 2 San Antonio and second in the Grade 2 San Fernando, Dakota Phone will be running late.

Other starters in the Santana Mile include Silent Soul, Cause, and Dixie Meister.