06/01/2006 11:00PM

Solis eager to put May behind him

Email

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The feature race at Hollywood Park on Thursday was an optional claimer for fillies on turf. Jockey Alex Solis rode Charming N Lovable to victory, closing with a wide rally in the final furlong.

For Solis, it was the last of two mounts on a quiet weekday. But it was a winner and it came at an ideal time, on the first day of June.

Solis, 42, is trying hard to forget the events of May, a month that started with so much promise.

In the Kentucky Derby on May 6, he rode the California star Brother Derek, one of his best chances to win the big race that has eluded him in his 25-year career. Brother Derek finished fourth after a wide trip. In the Preakness Stakes on May 20, Brother Derek finished fourth again, after being forced to take up around a stricken Barbaro in the stretch the first time.

Then came the results of Hall of Fame voting earlier this week. Solis was hoping to be inducted and join so many of the riding colleagues that he idolized in California in the 1980's and 1990's, such as Chris McCarron, and Laffit Pincay Jr. He was not chosen, falling short of the required 75 percent affirmative votes on the ballots.

His Kentucky Derby and Hall of Fame milestones will have to wait another year.

"It's very tough and very hurtful," Solis said in the jockeys' room after the races on Thursday. "Going to the Derby, we had a great horse and things didn't work out. We had a bad trip. He broke slow in the Preakness and the horse broke down in front of him. It was devastating.

"In the back of the mind you think, I'll get a nice present at the end of the month, and it didn't happen. I was kind of depressed and it hurt for a while. But I can't go hide in the corner. I can't quit life."

Solis says the quest for a Kentucky Derby win is one of many reasons he was determined to return to riding after breaking his back in a fall at Del Mar in 2004. He spent six months on the sidelines. The injury forces him to ration his rides, which is why he is not a contender for leading rider. Instead, Solis is more likely to be found primarily in the entries for the day's top races.

"I'd like to ride more races, but with my back I have to be careful," he said. "I like to ride three to six races a day."

Even though the 2007 Derby is 11 months away, it is in the back of Solis's mind. After winning Thursday's seventh race, Solis bumped into trainer Richard Mandella and asked if he needed help with morning workouts on Friday. Mandella said some of his 2-year-olds are getting closer to a start and that he may need Solis for a workout.

"That's my goal and one of the things I came back for," Solis said of the Kentucky Derby. "I'll keep trying. I love what I do, but the highs are so high and the lows are the dumps."

Solis heading to New York

Solis does not have a mount in the $300,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap at 1 1/4 miles on turf at Hollywood Park next Saturday. He will ride Grey Swallow in the Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park that day. Grey Swallow won the Jim Murray Memorial Handicap convincingly at Hollywood Park on May 13.

The Grade 1 Whittingham is expected to draw an excellent field. The candidates include Brecon Beacon, Fourty Niners Son, Hendrix, King's Drama, Lava Man, Runaway Dancer, Sweet Return, and T.H. Approval.

Trainer Eduardo Inda said he has not confirmed a rider for T.H. Approval, who won the San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap for the second consecutive year at Santa Anita in April. "There is no place else to run and I wanted to freshen him up after the San Juan Capistrano," Inda said.

Lava Man is trying for his fourth consecutive stakes win. The California-bred horse of the year in 2005, Lava Man won the Sunshine Millions Classic and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita earlier this year and the Khaled Stakes on turf at this meeting. The Whittingham will be his first start in a Grade 1 on turf.

Fourty Niners Son won the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Turf Championship at Santa Anita last October and won his only start of 2006 in an allowance race last month.

Anthony Downs produces a winner

It's official. Winners can come from anywhere.

Thursday at Hollywood Park, a $50,000 claiming sprint for 3-year-old fillies was won by Kelly Carson, whose first claim to fame is a win in the 2005 Anthony Downs Thoroughbred Futurity last summer.

Anthony Downs is in Anthony, Kan., in the southern part of the state, near Wichita. The six-day race meeting is held over consecutive weekends each July in conjunction with the county fair.

It is one of the most unusual race meetings in the nation. Anthony Downs runs a horse race - for Quarter Horses or Thoroughbreds - every half-hour on its half-mile track. In between, there is a Greyhound race on a quarter-mile track on the infield. "Every 15 minutes we run a race," said fair president Don Bird.

The fair draws crowds of 800 to 1,000 fans, Bird said. The horses are primarily from Kansas and Oklahoma. Some of the better ones make their way to Prairie Meadows in Iowa, which is where Kelly Carson started earlier this year before making her Southern California debut on Thursday for trainer Ted H. West.

Despite her modest origins, she was favored Thursday and paid $6.40.

* Buzzards Bay, the winner of the Oaklawn Handicap in April, worked a mile in 1:39.60 at Hollywood Park on Friday. Buzzards Bay is being pointed for a race on June 17 - the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs or the Californian at Hollywood Park.