04/09/2009 12:00AM

Theodora seeks first stakes win in Santa Lucia


ARCADIA, Calif. - Wins this year in two optional claimers have made Theodora a filly to watch in Southern California. It does not even get her into the top two in trainer John Shirreffs's barn.

With 2008 champion older female Zenyatta preparing for a comeback this year, and Life Is Sweet having already won three graded stakes this year, Theodora has a way to go to crack that exacta.

"I'm really lucky, aren't I?" Shirreffs said Thursday.

Saturday at Santa Anita, Theodora will attempt to win her first stakes in the $70,000 Santa Lucia Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. The race is custom-made for Theodora. It is restricted to fillies and mares that have not won a stakes at a mile or beyond this year.

"She should run just as she has," Shirreffs said.

Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, who also own Zenyatta, Theodora began her 2009 campaign with a third in an allowance race on turf in January. She followed with victories in an optional claimer at a mile by 3 1/4 lengths on Feb. 13 and an optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles by 1 1/4 lengths on March 6.

In both cases Theodora was heavily favored, but won using different styles under jockey Mike Smith. She stalked the pace in the Feb. 13 race, and led throughout the March 6 win.

"She can do anything," Shirreffs said. "She's very versatile. Wherever Mike wants her to be, she can be."

Theodora is the only filly in the Santa Lucia field who won her last start. Miss Singhsix finished behind Life Is Sweet in two Grade 2 stakes earlier this year - a third in the El Encino in January and a seventh in the La Canada Stakes in February. She was second in the Torrey Pines Stakes at Del Mar last summer.

Champagne Eyes, second in the Sharp Cat Stakes at Hollywood Park in November 2007, makes her first start in 15 months for trainer Doug O'Neill. She may set the pace, and give Theodora an early target.

Zenyatta to work Saturday

Zenyatta is scheduled to work under Smith at Hollywood Park on Saturday. Shirreffs has yet to schedule a comeback race for Zenyatta, who is unbeaten in nine starts.

"We'll get a better idea after Saturday of where we're at," Shirreffs said.

Life Is Sweet, who won the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap last month, is being pointed for the $150,000 Milady Handicap, a Grade 2 at 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park on May 23.

Lone Star Derby for Kelly Leak

Kelly Leak, the winner of the Sunland Park Derby on March 29, will make his next start in the $400,000 Lone Star Derby in Texas on May 9, trainer Mike Machowsky confirmed on Thursday.

Machowsky said the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore on May 16 was only briefly considered.

"I thought about it, but I think we'll pick the easier spots," Machowsky said. "We might have a good horse and a fresh horse at the end of the year."

The $800,000 Sunland Park Derby was not a graded stakes, leaving Kelly Leak without the graded earnings required to gain a berth in the Kentucky Derby.

A winner of 3 of 8 starts and $621,890, Kelly Leak has won his last two starts, including an allowance race on turf in February. He won the 1 1/8-mile Sunland Derby by 1 1/2 lengths for his first stakes win.

Desert Code has foot abscess

Desert Code, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint last October, emerged from a last-place finish in the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap on April 4 with an abscess in a foot, trainer David Hofmans said.

Hofmans said that the abscess was still a concern on Thursday, but that Desert Code "really improved" overnight. Hofmans said Desert Code could return to the racetrack by next week after the abscess is relieved.

"You can't rush it," he said.

Desert Code won the Daytona Handicap on the hillside turf course earlier this year. In the Arcadia Handicap, Desert Code stalked the pace to early stretch before fading in the final furlong.

Talamo will travel to work 'Revenge'

Jockey Joe Talamo will make brief trips to Churchill Downs on the next two Tuesdays - April 14 and 21 - to work I Want Revenge in advance of the Kentucky Derby on May 2.

I Want Revenge is a leading candidate for the Kentucky Derby on the basis of his wins in the Gotham Stakes and Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct.

Talamo, who will ride his first Kentucky Derby this year, will return to California to ride at Santa Anita next Wednesday and the opening day at Hollywood Park on April 22.

Talamo will then work I Want Revenge on April 28, and is likely to remain at Churchill Downs through Kentucky Derby Week.