04/09/2009 11:00PM

Square Eddie to prep for Derby in Lexington

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Square Eddie, who has not raced since January because of a cannon bone injury, will start in the $300,000 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland next Saturday as a prep for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 2.

Owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O'Neill had considered starting Square Eddie in the Kentucky Derby off a series of workouts in March and April but have opted to start the colt in the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes after a strong six-furlong breeze April 5 at Hollywood Park.

"He galloped out with so much energy and came out of the work so well," O'Neill said. "I think it makes sense now. He's ready for that.

"We had talked of doing a simulated race in the morning and we all know a race is more useful. Realistically to win a mile-and-a-quarter race off a layoff, we'll need a good prep."

Square Eddie has not started since finishing second to The Pamplemousse in the Grade 3 San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 17, Square Eddie's only start this year. He was scheduled to run in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park in February, but was sidelined by a cannon bone injury early that month.

Square Eddie has been working steadily, including a six-furlong breeze in 1:13 last April 5.

A winner of 2 of 7 starts and $787,366, Square Eddie had an outstanding campaign last fall after arriving from England. Square Eddie won the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland and finished second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita as the 7-2 favorite.

O'Neill said Edgar Prado will ride Square Eddie in the Lexington.

Smith to ride Chocolate Candy

Jockey Mike Smith will ride Chocolate Candy in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Friday.

Hollendorfer cited Smith's experience as a big-race rider, including a win in the 2005 Kentucky Derby aboard Giacomo, as a major factor in the decision.

"No disrespect to the other riders that wanted to ride, but we decided to go with Mike considering the big races that he's been in," Hollendorfer said.

Owned by Jenny Craig, Chocolate Candy has won 4 of 9 starts and $532,500. He has won two stakes this year - the California Derby and Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields - and was second by a length to top Kentucky Derby contender Pioneerof the Nile in the Santa Anita Derby on April 4. Russell Baze rode Chocolate Candy at Golden Gate Fields. Joel Rosario was aboard in the Santa Anita Derby.

Chocolate Candy is a closer, and Hollendorfer is hopeful that the Kentucky Derby will have a fast pace to help Chocolate Candy's style.

"I think there are a lot of good horses in there and a lot of horses with chances to win the Derby," he said. "I think he's one of those. Hopefully, we'll get a better pace."

Smith is scheduled to work Chocolate Candy at Santa Anita on Sunday. The colt will leave for Churchill Downs on Thursday, Hollendorfer said.

Smith said the workout will give him a feel for Chocolate Candy's running habits.

"I'd like to see if he is a horse that turns off on his own," he said. "He looks pretty jockey-friendly. He seems like he's not very difficult to ride.

"Every time he runs, he shows up. I think he's been hurt by a slow pace in some of his races. It's a matter of a getting a little pace for him."

Field sizes down this meet

Small fields on recent programs at Santa Anita will keep average field size this meet below the level of last year's meeting.

Wednesday's program averaged eight starters per race, while Thursday's card had an average of 7.1 starters, including five-horse fields on the final two races. Through Thursday, the meeting averaged 8.28 runners per race, less than the 8.65 starters per race at the 2007-08 meeting.

Sunday's nine-race program had 72 horses entered, an average of eight per race before scratches.

The lack of entries has not been a surprise to director of racing Mike Harlow.

"It comes and goes," Harlow said. "We have little lulls every once in a while. It happened on a couple of Sundays about a month ago."

Bad luck has played a factor. Thursday's eighth race had eight entries but only five starters after the scratches of Arm Chair QB, Crafty Hombre, and Danger Davis. Crafty Hombre was scratched in the post parade. Danger Davis was scratched at the gate.

Santa Anita still offered a $1 super high five on the race, requiring bettors to correctly select the first five finishers. The bet returned $70.70, but the pool was halved from approximately $96,000 to $42,536 when the late scratches required refunds.

Field size has been hurt in recent weeks by the defection of several stables to Keeneland and other circuits. Trainers Mark Casse, Christophe Clement, Graham Motion, and Todd Pletcher had divisions of their stables at Santa Anita this year, but left in late March and early April.

Harlow said he had hoped to run 10 races Saturday, but was only able to fill nine. For the final weekend of the meeting, next Saturday and Sunday, Harlow said the track intends to run 10 races each day.

Santa Anita may get a boost next weekend because some trainers based on the grounds would prefer to run their horses during the closing week of the meeting instead of shipping to Hollywood Park, which opens its spring-summer meeting April 22.

* Tiago, winner of the 2008 Oaklawn Handicap, has resumed galloping at Hollywood Park following an illness that prevented him from starting in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap last month. Tiago is within a week of a workout, according to trainer John Shirreffs. When that occurs, Sherriffs said he will have a better indication of Tiago's next start.