11/24/2010 3:24PM

Southern California Derby trials draw record crowd


In past seasons, the Southern California Derby at Los Alamitos was not well-supported, and gaining one of the 10 spots for the final was not very difficult for a horse with a decent level of ability. This year will be different. There are 38 horses in Friday’s four time trials, a record number of entrants. The purse for the Dec. 18 final is estimated at a record $202,500.

A placing in Friday’s trials is vital to have any chance of earning a berth.

“I think you’ll have to run 1-2-3,” said trainer Jose Antonio Flores, who has starters in three trials.

Flores’s best chance rests with Princelike, who starts in the final division. Princelike was second in the Golden State Derby in August but only fourth in the Los Alamitos Super Derby last month after a poor start.

“He’s had a bad start in his last three races,” Flores said. “I’m hoping for a better start. I changed riders, I’m putting G.R. Carter on him, and hopefully he can get him to break good.”

Princelike has never won a major stakes. Owned by Los Alamitos track chairman Ed Allred, Princelike has won half of his 10 starts, banked $220,132, and was second in the Los Alamitos Winter Derby in February.

Flores also starts Ab Another Runner in the sixth race, the first division, and Mama Justice in the seventh race. Mama Justice was fourth in the Winter Derby and has not started since finishing fifth in the Dillingham Handicap in April.

“He may need the race,” Flores said. “I couldn’t get a race into him. He’s had three good works.”

The Southern California Derby lacks a major stakes winner from this year.

The first division, the sixth race, is led by Favorite Cartel, who was fourth in the 2009 All American Futurity and fifth in the Los Alamitos Super Derby last month.

Mama Justice faces Peace Fire, who won the 2009 Governor’s Cup Futurity and Snitcher, who was third against the circuit’s top older horses in the Los Alamitos Championship last month. Snitcher is trained by Adan Farias, who has three runners in each trial.

Forrest Fire, third in the Super Derby, will be favored in the third trial, while Hoist Mission, who was third in the Los Alamitos Winter Derby in February, is a leading contender against Princelike in the final division.