12/16/2008 1:00AM

Victory Pete strong on, off the turf


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Victory Pete did just enough in his first few starts of the year to keep hope alive among his connections that he would make the Kentucky Derby. But when he bruised a foot on the eve of the Arkansas Derby in April, the dream ended. And a lengthy recovery ensued.

"He badly bruised his foot," said Alexis Barba, who trains Victory Pete. "It was a very serious bruise."

Utilizing the old-school methods she learned under her mentor, Eddie Gregson, Barba gave Victory Pete plenty of time to recover. And though he disappointed in his comeback race Nov. 22, that effort, his first race in more than eight months, should prove an ideal prep for Thursday's featured seventh race at Hollywood Park.

Victory Pete drew the rail in the one-mile race, which is scheduled to be run on turf but might have to be moved to the main track because heavy rain hit Southern California early this week. Regardless, Barba said, "I'm planning to run, unless the track is a disaster."

If the race is run on the main track, it will have to be run at a different distance since one-mile races cannot be run with Hollywood's configuration. Eight are entered.

Victory Pete has the versatility to do well on either surface. He finished third in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita and the California Derby at Golden Gate Fields on synthetic surfaces earlier this year, and he defeated maidens on turf at Santa Anita. He most recently faded to finish sixth in a similar first-level allowance race on the turf.

"I was a little disappointed he was on the lead like that," Barba said. "He had a license to get tired running a race like that off a long layoff."

His main rival figures to be Master Daniel, who is in a more realistic spot after facing top stakes sprinters in his last two starts. He was outrun by Into Mischief and company in the Damascus Stakes on the Breeders' Cup undercard, his first start in more than seven months. Then, he was unable to keep up with Johnny Eves in the Underwood on Nov. 22. This drop, for his third start following a layoff, makes him playable.