02/28/2007 12:00AM

Solis emerges from slump just in time


ARCADIA, Calif. - Mired in a monthlong slump, Alex Solis went rummaging through his garage last month, seeking inspiration. He dug out old videotapes of stakes wins aboard such familiar names as Bertrando, Kona Gold, Malek, Megahertz, and Pleasantly Perfect, a personal list of highlights.

Sitting in front of his television, Solis thought to himself that the list was not complete; more names were needed.

So Solis rededicated himself to riding, especially riding workouts in the mornings. It appears as if the slump is over. After winning with 5 of his first 68 mounts at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting, Solis has won with 8 of his last 36.

"The last month or so really opened my eyes," Solis said. "It makes me appreciate what I have. I probably got too confident and got to resting on my laurels. Maybe people thought I didn't want to do it."

The renewed success left him tied for 11th in the meet standings through Sunday. He could take a significant jump on that list this weekend, when he rides nine of the 11 races on Saturday's program, including all five of the stakes.

In Saturday's stakes, Solis rides Boboman in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap, After Market in the $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile, Saint Paul in the $250,000 Robert Lewis Stakes, Speedy Suzanne in the $90,000 China Doll Stakes, and Anamanor in the $90,000 Flower Girl Handicap.

Boboman is making his main-track debut in the Big Cap, and Solis is hoping for an upset similar to the one he provided on Dare and Go, against Cigar in the 1996 Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

"Hopefully we can do that again," he said.

Saint Paul is making his California debut in the Lewis Stakes, which is for 3-year-olds.

Solis does not have a lengthy list of Kentucky Derby hopefuls, but is not overly concerned about that. Last year, he rode Brother Derek, the winner of the Santa Anita Derby, to a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.

"At this time in past years we had nothing and we picked up Aptitude, Victory Gallop, and Captain Bodgit," he said. "Last year was different. Brother Derek was an exception. Anything can come up."

Going into Wednesday's program, Solis was 44 winners behind Garrett Gomez in the standings, with eight weeks remaining in the meeting. Solis will not catch Gomez, but cracking the top five is a possibility.

"I can't be leading rider, but I want to get to the best I can be," he said.

Solis, 42, has been riding uninterrupted for two years since missing six months because of a broken vertebra suffered in a spill at Del Mar in July 2004.

"I was so motivated when I came back," he said. "Then, I guess I lost my motivation. I didn't set a challenge. Things went quiet."

Solis will pursue the leading rider title at the Hollywood Park and Del Mar meetings. That will be a little easier since Gomez is expected to ride on the East Coast this summer and Patrick Valenzuela is out with a knee injury with an uncertain comeback date.

Victor Espinoza and David Flores may have to something to say about whether Solis wins titles, but Solis says he will be ready.

"It may sound crazy, but I can be leading rider," he said.

Milk It Mick goes right into Kilroe

Milk It Mick, the defending champion of Saturday's Grade 1 Kilroe Mile, has been given a difficult task for this year's race - win off a layoff of nine months.

Milk It Mick, 6, has not started since finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile at Hollywood Park last May. He emerged from that race with a cannon bone injury that required surgery, according to trainer Jim Cassidy.

While Cassidy says Milk It Mick has trained well for his comeback, he isn't certain how Milk It Mick will run without a prep race.

"I don't know what to expect," Cassidy said. "He amazes me how professional he is. You have to have the utmost respect for him."

Owned by Paul Dixon of England, Milk It Mick placed in three other stakes last year, including a troubled third in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs last May. Milk It Mick might have won the race with a clean trip. He was in traffic in the stretch and finished only 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner, English Channel.

"He got in so much trouble," Cassidy recalled.

A big field in the Kilroe will put an emphasis on luck for a closer such as Milk It Mick. He will be ridden for the first time by jockey Mike Smith, a replacement for David Flores, who is booked to ride Three Valleys.

Sweet Return to wait for Muniz

The Kilroe field will not include Sweet Return, the winner of the 2004 Kilroe. Sweet Return won the Thunder Road Handicap Feb. 3 in his only start of 2007.

Trainer Ron McAnally said Sweet Return will make his next start in the $500,000 Mervin Muniz Handicap, a Grade 2 at 1 1/8 miles on turf at Fair Grounds on March 10.

Sweet Return would have been a leading contender in the Kilroe Mile.

Bullet for Dubai-bound Dixie Meister

Dixie Meister, the winner of the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap in January, worked five furlongs in 58.20 seconds at Santa Anita on Wednesday, the fastest of 21 recorded works at the distance.

Trained by Julio Canani, Dixie Meister is being pointed for the $1 million Godolphin Mile in Dubai on March 31.

At Hollywood Park, Declan's Moon worked three furlongs in 34.60 seconds, the second-fastest of 25 recorded works at the distance.

Declan's Moon, the champion 2-year-old male of 2004, suffered two disappointing losses in January, which led trainer Ron Ellis to essentially start over in the training of the gelding.

Ellis said the process could take "a couple of months" and did not set a timetable or a goal for Declan's Moon's return. Owned by Mace and Samantha Siegel, Declan's Moon won the Del Mar Futurity and Hollywood Futurity in 2004.