07/27/2004 11:00PM

Solis mending after surgery

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Jockey Alex Solis, who suffered a fractured vertebra in a one-horse spill last Friday at Del Mar, underwent surgery to stabilize his spine on Tuesday, but is unlikely to ride until the end of the year, according to his agent, Scotty McClellan.

Solis underwent a four-hour operation at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla to have a rod inserted in his back to stabilize the injury to his T-5 vertebra. McClellan spoke with Solis's son Alex Jr. late Tuesday night.

"His son called and said everything went well," McClellan said. "He'll be in intensive care for a few days."

McClellan said Solis will remain hospitalized until next week before beginning a rehabilitation program.

"After a week, he'll go home. He'll stay down here for the summer until he mends," McClellan said. "He is near the doctor that did the surgery here."

No definite timetable has been discussed for recuperation, but McClellan said it would be a lengthy period.

"They didn't say too much. It depends on each individual," McClellan said. "They gave us two or three different scenarios. It won't be two or three months, it will be longer.

"If he gets to the point that the rod is bothering him, he might have surgery to remove it. There are many different scenarios."

Solis was injured when Golden K K, his mount in the fourth race, clipped heels and fell in early stretch.

Doctors debated whether Solis should have the surgery. McClellan said that Solis and his wife, Sheila, determined the surgery would speed his recovery, be safer, and cause less discomfort in coming months.

"It's so much better for his safety to have it done with the surgery," McClellan said. "Half of the doctors said brace it, and half said don't. That made it hard for Alex and Sheila to reach a conclusion. They thought the best thing was to do the surgery.

"The main thing is Alex Solis and his well-being."

Rushin' to Altar comes back

Rushin' to Altar, who placed in two sprint stakes at this meeting last year, returns from an 11-month layoff in a $65,000 allowance race at 6 1/2 furlongs on Friday.

Trained by Ron McAnally for Arthur Vogel, Rushin' to Altar finished second in the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien Handicap and third in the restricted Pirate's Bounty Handicap last year, but missed the rest of the year because of a cannon bone injury that required surgery.

McAnally nominated Rushin' to Altar for the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Handicap last weekend, but did not enter the 5-year-old horse, opting for Friday's race.

"We didn't want to throw him to the wolves in his first race," McAnally said.

Friday's allowance race is not an easy spot. The opposition includes Hasty Kris, who won the Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap at Calder last December and has run in four top sprints this year, and Rojo Toro, who was second in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 3.

Rojo Toro was entered for the Bing Crosby but was scratched. Kamsack and Question are the other two runners, and will be longshots.

Rushin' to Altar's last win came in an optional claimer over 6 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park in July 2003. Despite the layoff, McAnally expects a top effort on Friday. "He's training really well," he said.

During has tough task

Bob Baffert is looking toward Sunday's $250,000 San Diego Handicap with a sense of dread.

Baffert will start During, the winner of the San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes in January at Santa Anita, who has not started since finishing sixth in the Godolphin Mile in Dubai in March.

During's main competition in the Grade 2 San Diego, run over 1 1/16 miles, was the star in Dubai that night - Pleasantly Perfect, the winner of the $6 million Dubai World Cup.

"I'm not looking forward to running against Pleasantly Perfect, but who is?" Baffert said.

Owned by Jim McIngvale, During has won four stakes in his career, all in his own age group. A stalker, During got his richest win in the $400,000 Swaps Stakes last summer at Hollywood Park.

Baffert fears that During will need a start to return to top form.

"During usually needs an out to get a tightener," he said. "I need to start somewhere. You can only do so much in the morning, and then you have to put the races in him."

The San Diego is a major prep to the $1 million Pacific Classic over 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 22, the richest race of the meeting.

Aside from During and Pleasantly Perfect, the probable starters for the San Diego are Choctaw Nation, Decorador, Reba's Gold, and Taste of Paradise.

Baffert juveniles get in works

Baffert worked two of his top 2-year-old males on Wednesday: Actxecutive and Roman Ruler.

Actxecutive, second in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship on July 18, worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds. The time tied for the eighth-fastest of 61 recorded works at the distance.

Actxecutive is expected to make his next start in the $250,000 Hopeful Stakes over seven furlongs at Saratoga on Aug. 21, Baffert said.

"He needs to go two turns so bad," Baffert said. "I wish we had a long race. When they go two turns, I think he'll be a really top horse.

Roman Ruler worked a half-mile in 46.80 seconds, which tied for the third-fastest of 60 recorded works at the distance.

Roman Ruler has started once, winning a five-furlong maiden race by four lengths at Hollywood Park on June 19. He is expected to make his next start in the $150,000 Best Pal Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar on Aug. 15.

Got Koko aiming for fall campaign

Got Koko, who swept Santa Anita's La Canada Series for 4-year-old fillies in 2003, is just starting a comeback for trainer Bruce Headley that should result in her returning to the races this fall. Got Koko has not raced since the Santa Monica Handicap in January at Santa Anita.

"She had an ankle fill up," Headley said. "The vet said to give her six weeks. I gave her three months. She's had four works since starting back - three at three furlongs, and one at a half-mile."

Got Koko finished second to Azeri here last summer in the Clement Hirsch Handicap. Headley hopes to get one or two prep races into Got Koko before the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Kona Gold thriving in new life

Kona Gold is back at his favorite racetrack, enjoying his new career as a pony for Headley. The 10-year-old gelding, who won the Breeders' Cup Sprint and was named champion sprinter in 2000, was twice a winner of this track's Bing Crosby Handicap, in 2000 and 2001. After he was retired from racing last year, Headley decided Kona Gold's easygoing temperament and fondness for being at the racetrack would make him a suitable pony.

Headley rides Kona Gold to and from the track every morning. Kona Gold is so unflappable that Headley has put visitors to his barn on the horse's back to pose for pictures.

"He's doing great," Headley said while atop Kona Gold. "He's doing everything right. He goes back and forth from the track every day. He gets fed carrots and candy, and everybody wants to get their picture taken with him."

Also serving as a pony at Headley's barn is another of his former top sprinters, Son of a Pistol. Now age 12, Son of a Pistol won the Bing Crosby in 1998.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman