09/12/2004 11:00PM

Sharp winner may start in Norfolk

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POMONA, Calif. - The dominating debut by Houseofroyalhearts on Saturday at Fairplex Park will catapult the 2-year-old colt directly into a graded stakes. Trainer Cliff Sise said Houseofroyalhearts "couldn't blow out a match" after his 4 1/2-length victory, and the Grade 2 Norfolk Stakes on Oct. 3 at Santa Anita is likely to be the colt's next start. Houseofroyalhearts, a homebred son of Chester House owned by Larry Williams, earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 75. The number does him little justice.

Houseofroyalhearts trailed early, but passing the half-mile pole on the five-eighth-mile track he exploded.

"When we turned down the backside, he just took off," jockey Iggy Puglisi said. Houseofroyalhearts went from 10th to sixth into the backstretch, weaved through traffic on the far turn, and powered home under a hand ride. "He floated home. I haven't ridden a horse like that in the bullring in a long time," Puglisi said.

Sise expects Houseofroyalhearts to improve at distances farther than the 6 1/2 furlongs he ran Saturday.

"He really wants to run all day," said Sise. The trainer said that if either Declan's Moon or Roman Ruler, one-two finishers in the Del Mar Futurity don't go in the Norfolk, "we'll probably go."

A day earlier on Friday, a Sise-trained 2-year-old filly, Gn. Group Meeting, earned her way into the California Cup Juvenile Fillies with an off-the-pace maiden sprint victory.

Mullins's Florida connection

Allow a front-runner such as Verkade to set an easy pace, and good things happen.

"His heart swells up when he makes the lead," trainer Jeff Mullins said after Verkade stole the $58,800 Phil D. Shepherd Stakes on Saturday. It was Verkade's third start since Mullins acquired the 4-year-old from Florida for owners Bob Bone, Ralph Hawkins, and Dan Robinson. Although the Shepherd is considered a prep for the $100,000 Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Invitational Handicap on Sept. 26, Mullins plans to unveil a new shooter for that closing-day feature.

Kristine's King won 6 of 28 in Florida, and is nearing his first start for Mullins. He said Kristine's King, owned by Michael House, was being targeted for the Pomona Handicap, and that if he runs two in the race, "it wouldn't be Verkade because they have the same running style."

Kristine's King is a front-runner who earned a career-high Beyer Figure of 103 winning his final start in Florida for his former trainer, Gerald Procino.

No secrets

When trainer Don Chatlos showed up in the Hollywood Park casino Friday afternoon before his colt Last Minute Detail ran in the $58,800 Foothill Stakes at Fairplex Park, word circulated among casino patrons and tellers that Chatlos was there only in order to place a wager in relative anonymity.

"Any kind of conspiracy, they love it," Chatlos said.

Chatlos said he did wager on Last Minute Detail, but he was not hiding out. In fact, Chatlos was having his car fixed in a nearby Inglewood repair shop, but the work was not finished until less than an hour to post for the Foothill. On a Friday afternoon, it is impossible to drive from Inglewood to Pomona in less than 90 minutes. Chatlos made his bet at the casino, and watched jockey Omar Figueroa guide Last Minute Detail to a 1 1/4-length win. He paid $22.40 and earned a Beyer Figure of 81.

Although the 6 1/2-furlong Foothill is often a prep for the $100,000 Pomona Derby at 1 1/8 miles, Chatlos said Last Minute Detail's days as a router are finished. He tried two turns twice at Del Mar and failed each time.

Last Minute Detail, said Chatlos, "is a late-running sprinter, not a router."

Two droughts over

Martin Pedroza won 10 races the first three days to sprint seven clear of Omar Figueroa in the standings at the Los Angeles County Fair, while two other riders - David Nuesch and Garrett Gomez - were just happy to get the monkeys off their backs Sunday.

Nuesch snapped a 70-race losing streak when he rode Greelite to a 5 1/2-length win in race 10. It was the first win for Nuesch since June 4 at Hollywood Park. Greelite is trained by Mike Mitchell and was dropping to $16,000 after being claimed for $40,000.

"Once we made the lead he was just in cruise," Nuesch said. Greelite opened up by eight lengths, and was never threatened. "I kept the hammer on him. I didn't want to leave anything to chance, having not won in so long."

Gomez, who is making his comeback after a year and nine months away from riding, won the fifth race Sunday on At a Boy Harry for trainer Len Duncan. It was the first win for Gomez since Dec. 13, 2002, at Sunland.

Apprentice rider Chuck Russell escaped serious injury Sunday in race 12 when his mount, College Education, was unable to handle the final turn and bolted entering the stretch. Russell fell and rolled under the outer rail. He sustained a mild concussion, according to fair officials.

Guaranteed pick four pool

Fairplex Park will aim to build on the popularity of the pick four by offering a $200,000 guaranteed pool this Saturday.

"It seems like the bet of choice; it's very popular among fans," said George Bradvica, equine manager at Fairplex.

Del Mar offered $500,000 guaranteed pick four pools on Sundays this summer, and exceeded the mark each time.

According to Bradvica, pick four handle has increased roughly 40 percent meet to meet, and officials are confident the pool will top $200,000 after handling $150,138 on the first Saturday. The first two Saturdays of the 2003 Fairplex meet, the pick four handled $95,587 and $139,742.

Bradvica said Fairplex will not take out insurance on the $200,000 guaranteed pool: "We're confident we are going to make it."