08/31/2004 11:00PM

Spring star Borrego returns in El Cajon

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Borrego, an also-ran in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, may use the El Cajon on Friday as a prep for the Super Derby.

DEL MAR, Calif. - After Borrego finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby and seventh in the Preakness Stakes in May, trainer Beau Greely knew that the talented 3-year-old needed a break.

"After the Preakness, he was pretty worn out," Greely said.

Greely said that Borrego has shown signs of rebounding in recent weeks. Friday, Borrego will try for his first stakes win, in the $75,000 El Cajon Stakes for 3-year-olds at Del Mar.

"It looks like he's bounced back in good form," Greely said. "He's starting to shine again. It looks like a good spot."

Restricted to non winners of a stakes worth $50,000 or more at a mile or farther this year, the El Cajon Stakes is considered by Greely to be a springboard to major stakes for Borrego. One possible goal is the $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 25.

followed the Triple Crown trail earlier this year, reeling off consecutive runner-up finishes in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, and Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. In the Arkansas Derby, Borrego finished 1 1/2 lengths behind Smarty Jones.

"I thought he had a hell of a campaign," Greely said. "He didn't turn 3 until after the Preakness. That track on Kentucky Derby Day did not suit him, and he was probably pretty tired."

In the El Cajon Stakes, Borrego will be favored against six rivals, including the sprint stakes winner Courageous Act and Perfect Moon.

One of Greely's concerns is the distance. Last year, Borrego won a maiden race over a mile on turf and an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles on dirt, but he has run farther in his most recent starts. "It could be a little short for him," Greely said.

each come into the race off a loss.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Courageous Act finished sixth behind Purge in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 8.

The winner of the San Pedro Stakes at Santa Anita in February, Courageous Act was second in the Derby Trial and Iowa Derby earlier this year.

Perfect Moon finished ninth in the WinStar Derby at Sunland Park in March. After the race, he underwent surgery to have a bone chip removed from a knee. This is his first start since.

"I'd rather run one turn, but I think he'll run well," trainer Doug O'Neill said. "The race will tell us if he's made it back."