03/30/2008 11:00PM

Three-year-olds impress with drills


ARCADIA, Calif. - To keep up with the leading contenders for Saturday's Santa Anita Derby, flashy works are a must.

On Saturday at Hollywood Park, two top hopefuls for the Santa Anita Derby - El Gato Malo and Georgie Boy - recorded the fastest works of the day at five and six furlongs. El Gato Malo, winner of the Grade 3 San Rafael Stakes in January, breezed five furlongs in 59 seconds, the fastest of 53 recorded works at the distance. Georgie Boy, winner of the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on March 15, breezed six furlongs in 1:12, which equaled the fastest of 14 recorded works at that distance.

The other 1:12 workout was recorded by Signature Move, who will be a longshot in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, a major prep for the Kentucky Derby on May 3.

El Gato Malo worked in company with a stablemate, according to trainer Craig Dollase, tracking his partner until they reached the stretch.

"He did it nicely and well within himself," Dollase said. "There was another horse that jumped in front of him and he had a target."

Owned by West Point Thorougbreds, El Gato Malo has won 3 of 4 starts and $200,200. He suffered his first career loss when second to Colonel John in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes on March 1. Colonel John will be favored in the Santa Anita Derby, which, like the Sham, is run at 1 1/8 miles.

"I'm ready for the challenge," Dollase said of the Santa Anita Derby. "Georgie Boy looked like he worked well today. We need a little bit of racing luck."

Georgie Boy won his debut around two turns in the San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. Owned by George Schwary and trained by Kathy Walsh, Georgie Boy has won four stakes in his seven-race career.

Signature Move will be making his first start since finishing 10th in the Grade 3 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds in February. He emerged from that race with a lung infection, trainer Eric Guillot said.

The Santa Anita Derby has a probable field of nine. Rossa Corsa, winner of a maiden race for $100,000 claimers on March 7, has been added to the expected field, trainer Darrell Vienna said.

The other probable starters are Coast Guard, On the Virg, Polonius, and Yankee Bravo.

Gayego, second to Georgie Boy in the San Felipe Stakes, breezed a half-mile in 48.60 seconds at Hollywood Park on Saturday. He is being pointed for the $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 12.

Witchy Meeting heads allowance

Witchy Meeting has become a different filly in the last six months, a time that coincides with trainer Tim Yakteen and jockey Richard Migliore gaining a better understanding of the 4-year-old.

During that span, Witchy Meeting has beaten maidens and finished second twice, including an optional claimer for statebreds on March 3. She starts in a $52,000 allowance race at 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita on Monday, a race that Yakteen expects her to win.

"I think she should be able to handle the distance," Yakteen said. "I think she's an improving filly. I think there is more to come."

Owned by Jack Mandato and Russ Sarno, Witchy Meeting is likely to be favored in Monday's race, the feature on an eight-race program. She is expected to stalk a pace set by River Glow and Warren's Adventure.

Yakteen said the key to a win is for Migliore to get Witchy Meeting to stay calm in the minutes before the race.

"She's a bit of a nervous filly," Yakteen said. "When she breaks away from the pony, she relaxes more. She's a pretty intense filly and she can get a little wound up."

The race could serve as a prep for the $150,000 B Thoughtful Stakes for statebred fillies and mares at seven furlongs at Hollywood Park on April 27, which is part of the California Gold Rush program.

"It's definitely something that we'd consider," Yakteen said.

River Glow could give Witchy Meeting a test. Trained by Carla Gaines for breeder Harris Farms, River Glow was third behind Witchy Meeting in the optional claimer earlier this month. In that race, River Glow was second to the eighth pole while racing in traffic. Gaines would prefer to see River Glow in front.

"You've got to let her have her head and find her place," Gaines said. "She's a difficult filly to deal with mentally."

Jockey Tyler Baze rides River Glow for the first time Monday, replacing leading rider Garrett Gomez, who does not have a mount in the race.

Bejarano set to return Saturday

Rafael Bejarano, who has not ridden since suffering fractures to two vertebrae in a one-horse spill on March 13, is scheduled to return to riding at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, according to his agent, Joe Ferrer.

Bejarano will return from a trip to his native Peru on Tuesday and is hoping to receive doctor's clearance to resume riding that afternoon, Ferrer said. Bejarano led the jockey standings at this meeting from Feb. 27 to March 21 and is currently second to Gomez.