04/20/2005 11:00PM

Texcess goes for gold instead of Derby


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Texcess's chances of starting in the Triple Crown ended with a last-place finish in the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park in late March.

The performance was his third consecutive loss and led trainer Paul Aguirre to lower his expectations. The Kentucky Derby was out, and Sunday's $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for California-bred 3-year-olds at Holly-wood Park became an early spring goal.

For Aguirre, a brief run on the Triple Crown trail was an eye-opening experience.

"I saw early how much the Triple Crown can beat you up," Aguirre said. "I have no aspirations with this horse. He's a California-bred gelding, and I want him to have a lucrative career."

Races such as the Snow Chief Stakes could help to achieve that objective. The Snow Chief Stakes is the richest race on Sunday's $1.3 million California Gold Rush program, a 10-race card for statebreds.

The program features six stakes worth $150,000 or more and four overnight races. Thursday, 107 horses were entered for the Gold Rush program, including 12 in the Snow Chief, which is run over 1 1/8 miles on the main track. Aside from Texcess, the top contender is Thor's Echo, who won the WinStar Derby over 1 1/8 miles at Sunland Park on April 2.

For Texcess, the race is more than just a retreat to statebred company. A win would push Texcess past the $900,000 mark in earnings and be a boost to him after he finished 35 lengths behind Flower Alley in the Lane's End.

Following that race, Texcess was found to have a pulled muscle in a stifle. In addition, Aguirre noticed the gelding was losing weight.

"He had never done that before," Aguirre said of the weight loss. "I've had a hard time getting it back on him."

The pulled muscle healed over the last month, Aguirre said, after Texcess was given treatment by an acupuncturist.

"We gave him some time with light training," Aguirre said.

Texcess is already a success story. Purchased for $85,000 at the 2004 Barretts May sale of 2-year-olds in training, Texcess has won 3 of 7 starts and $763,427 for Aguirre and co-owner Omar Aldabbagh.

Last fall, Texcess was in outstanding form. He scored his first win in the California Cup Juvenile, his second career start, and followed that with a victories in an allowance race at Hollywood Park and the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes in December.

Those two stakes wins were enough to gain the title of California-bred champion 2-year-old male.

Earlier this year, Texcess finished third in the Grade 2 San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita in January and was second to Stellar Magic in the San Mateo Mile at Bay Meadows on Feb. 12.

The Snow Chief distance will be a test for Texcess, who has not won beyond 1 1/16 miles. He has returned from the loss in the Lane's End to work well, including five furlongs in 59.40 seconds on April 14 and a half-mile in 47.40 seconds on Wednesday. "He was well within himself," Aguirre said of the latest workout. "But this is a tough race."

Short price to start the day

Sunday's program includes a guaranteed pick six pool of $1 million, which covers the final six races of the day.

The first major race of the day is the opener, the $150,000 Fran's Valentine Stakes for fillies and mares over 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Valentine Dancer, the winner of the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf in January, will be a short-priced favorite against five opponents.

The $150,000 Khaled Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on turf has drawn a weak field of seven. Cheiron, who won the 2004 Snow Chief Stakes, will try to end a six-race losing streak. None of the other starters has won a stakes since the start of 2004.

The $200,000 Melair Stakes for 3-year-old fillies over 1 1/16 miles on the main track is led by Cee's Irish, the winner of the Sunland Park Oaks on April 2.

The $150,000 Tiznow Stakes includes four stakes winners from 2005 - Areyoutalkintome (Grade 3 El Conejo Handicap), Grand Appointment (Sensational Star Handicap), Red Warrior (Sunshine Millions Sprint), and Yougottawanna (Grade 3 Seabiscuit Breeders' Cup Handicap).

Grade 1 winners Dream of Summer and Alphabet Kisses meet in the $150,000 B. Thoughtful Stakes for fillies and mares over seven furlongs. Dream of Summer won the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 9, Alphabet Kisses won the La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita last December. The race drew nine entrants.

Flores recovers from elbow injury

Jockey David Flores is making a comeback from injury this weekend.

Flores, 37, has not ridden since suffering a dislocated elbow in a three-horse spill at Santa Anita in late February. While hospitalized, Flores had bone spurs removed from his left elbow.

The accident occurred just before Flores was scheduled to leave for Japan for a two-month riding engagement.

Wednesday, Flores received doctor's clearance to resume riding. Thursday at Santa Anita, Flores said he worked six horses for trainers Bob Baffert, Julio Canani, Juan Garcia, and Eoin Harty.

"My arm is doing good," Flores said. "I'm ready."

Flores has one mount on Saturday and two on Sunday's Gold Rush program.

"Maybe next week it will pick up," he said.

Stevens back from Kentucky

Gary Stevens, who is riding at Keeneland this month, will be at Hollywood Park on Sunday, and has five mounts. Four are for trainer Marty Jones - Alphabet Kisses, El Don in the Tiznow, Blind Ambition in the Fran's Valentine, and Arousing in the $60,000 NTRA Stakes for maidens.

Arousing is a first-time starter by Cee's Tizzy out of the major stakes winner Soviet Problem.

Stevens rides Skywalker Red for trainer Paddy Gallagher in the Khaled Stakes.

Two Swiss Yodeler fillies debut

Saturday's fourth race is the first 4 1/2-furlong maiden race for 2-year-olds of the year in Southern California. Eight will start, including two fillies by Swiss Yodeler.

In recent years, foals by Swiss Yodeler have done well at the Hollywood Park meeting, especially those trained by Mike Harrington.

Saturday, trainer Mike Harrington starts the Swiss Yodeler filly Neutrality, while his wife, Patricia, starts Lil' Sister Swiss. The pair are not coupled in the betting. Heinz Steinmann, who campaigned Swiss Yodeler in the late 1990's, owns Neutrality, while Patricia Harrington owns Lil' Sister Swiss.

Mike Harrington says he has 20 Swiss Yodeler 2-year-olds in his barn. He is hoping that the two starting on Saturday are near the head of the class.

"Who knows? They've all worked in 48 or 49 seconds out of the gate," Harrington said. "They can either all run or they can't. I think these two look like they are among the best."