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Wanted: Jockey for Siberland
ARCADIA, Calif. - In the last five weeks, Siberland has fought through a foot problem and a sore muscle in his hind quarters to remain an outsider on the Triple Crown trail.
In the last few days, trainer Kevin Lewis has faced a new dilemma - choosing a jockey for Siberland, a three-time stakes winner, for the $250,000 San Felipe Stakes next Sunday.
Laffit Pincay Jr. was expected to have the mount, but he is out indefinitely after suffering two broken bones in his neck in a spill on March 1. Pincay's absence has left Lewis scrambling to find a replacement in advance of the biggest race of Siberland's career.
"I have no idea what I'll do," he said Friday.
There is no shortage of candidates for the San Felipe, a key prep race for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 5. Many of the probables did not have confirmed riders as of Friday.
The likely starters are Atswhatimtalknbout (David Flores), Brancusi (Tony Farina), Buckland Manor, Buddy Gil (Gary Stevens), Domestic Dispute (Jerry Bailey), During (Victor Espinoza), Logician, Man Among Men (Alex Solis), and Ten Cents a Shine.
Domestic Dispute, a three-length winner of the Santa Catalina Stakes, leads the field. Bailey will ride Domestic Dispute, replacing Flores, who will ride Atswhatimtalknbout. Trained by Ron Ellis, Atswhatimtalknbout will be making his stakes debut, following a stylish win in an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 20.
Friday, Siberland worked seven furlongs in 1:24, according to Lewis. He was given an official workout of six furlongs in 1:11 by track clockers.
Siberland has not started since he finished second to Robledo in the Turf Paradise Derby on Feb. 1. He led to deep stretch before losing by three-quarters of a length. At the time, Siberland was battling a foot injury that Lewis compared to a quarter crack.
Lewis then pointed Siberland for the San Rafael Stakes on March 1, but was forced to pass the race when he emerged from a workout with an apparent sore muscle in his hind end.
Tests were taken, but no injuries were revealed. Veterinarians advised Lewis that Siberland could continue training, leading to preparations for a start in the San Felipe.
Trainer Jeff Mullins admits he is taking a chance in the San Felipe with Buddy Gil, who pulled an upset in the Baldwin Stakes on the hillside turf course on Feb. 23.
"I don't think he was 100 percent in the Baldwin," Mullins said. "Gary came and worked him and was amazed. We'll never know how good he can be unless we give him a chance."
Owned by a partnership, Buddy Gil has won 3 of 7 starts, including the six-furlong Golden Bear Stakes last November.
Mullins gets Dubai prospects ready
Mullins is making his first trip to Dubai later this month and will have two starters on the undercard of the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 29 - Captain Squire in the $2 million Golden Shaheen Stakes over six furlongs and Lusty Latin in the $1 million Godolphin Mile on the main track.
Both worked on Friday. Captain Squire, the winner of the Sunshine Millions Dash on Jan. 25 in his only race of the year, worked six furlongs in 1:09.80, the fastest of 52 works at the distance.
Lusty Latin was timed in 1:12. Third in the 2002 Santa Anita Derby, Lusty Latin finished fourth in an allowance race on Feb. 17, his first start since he finished 15th in the Kentucky Derby.
Captain Squire and Lusty Latin are scheduled to leave on March 15.
"I'll work Captain Squire one more time before he leaves," Mullins said. "I won't work him over there. He doesn't need to do much to go three-quarters. He wasn't blowing hard after this workout."
Arcadia next target for River God
River God, the gritty winner of an allowance race over 1 1/8 miles on turf on Thursday, may resurface in the $150,000 Arcadia Handicap on April 6.
Trained by Richard Mandella, the 5-year-old River God outfought Mananan McLir in Thursday's race to win by a neck, his first victory since an allowance race in March 2001. In the last two years, River God has fought through a fractured shin, a fractured splint bone, and a stress fracture in his pelvis. The injuries resulted in a 22-month layoff until January of this year.
"He's a good horse, but we've been patient trying to bring him along," Mandella said. "He's in pretty good shape now."
Mandella is having a strong meeting with turf horses, having won the San Marcos Stakes with Johar and the San Luis Obispo Handicap with The Tin Man. Neither will start for the rest of the meeting.
Johar is nursing a shoulder injury, and The Tin Man is recovering from an illness and will not start in the meeting's next major turf race, the $250,000 San Luis Rey Handicap next Saturday.
Johnston goes Hollywood
Mark Johnston, the Maryland-based journeyman jockey who was named the nation's outstanding apprentice of 1990, is relocating to Southern California.
Johnston, 32, intends to move to California in early April. He may ride during the Santa Anita meeting, which ends on April 20, but is pointing for the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting that starts on April 23.
"I'm excited. It's a challenge I'm looking forward to," Johnston said. "In my mind, Southern California is top-notch racing. It's something I wanted to try. I thought about New York, but I don't want to live in New York. It's time for me to make this step up."
Johnston has won 3,038 races from 18,282 mounts. His mounts have earned $55,370,863.
This year, Johnston has ridden in only 43 races, primarily at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, with a few mounts at Laurel in Maryland.
Michelle Barsotti will represent Johnston.
Azeri on target for Apple Blossom
Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year, remains on schedule to make her first start of the year in the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 5, trainer Laura de Seroux said.
"She's perfect," de Seroux said. "She's been doing her daily gallops. She seems so fit I decided to space her works to not get ready too quick."
Azeri has not started since clinching her title with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Arlington Park last October. The 5-year-old Azeri has won her last seven starts, a streak that began in the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap last March.