01/26/2011 2:53PM

West Coast Hawk gets fresh start in Los Alamitos Winter Derby trials


West Coast Hawk and First Down Illusion won the first two futurities at Los Alamitos in 2010 – the Kindergarten in May and Ed Burke Million in June. They spent the rest of the year trying to duplicate those performances, with limited results.

West Coast Hawk lost his next two starts, in October and November. First Down Illusion won a minor stakes in July but lost his final four starts of the year, ending with a third in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity trials in November.

Both horses were rested at the end of the year and will make their first starts as 3-year-olds in separate divisions of the Los Alamitos Winter Derby trials Friday.

A fresh start is what West Coast Hawk needs, trainer Jose Antonio Flores said.

“I think he’s coming back to his game,” Flores said Wednesday.

Owned by Balgo Racing, West Coast Hawk was second in a division of the Golden State Million trials in October, failing to qualify for the final, and was sixth behind Cold Cash 123 in the Southwest Juvenile Championship at Zia Park in November.

“He got a little bit sick on us,” Flores said of the trip to New Mexico.

In Friday’s trials over 400 yards, West Coast Hawk will attempt to win the longest race of his career. The horses with the 10 fastest times, regardless of finishing position, earn berths in the $200,000 final on Feb. 18.

West Coast Hawk drew the rail in the third division, which discouraged Flores.

“I don’t like the post position,” he said.

First Down Illusion, winner of 2 of 10 starts, needed a late autumn break, trainer Adan Farias said. When First Down Illusion won the Ed Burke on June 19, it was his fifth start of the year.

“I think we ran him too hard early in the year,” Farias said.

Farias said that First Down Illusion “was perfect” in the Ed Burke. He is equally confident the colt can rebound Friday.

“He’s been training really well,” he said.

Saturday’s program features divisions of the Los Alamitos Winter Championship trials, where 10 berths are available for the Feb. 19 final. Freaky, the defending champion, will start. He finished sixth in the Champion of Champions, emerging with cuts on front and hind legs that required stitches, Farias said.

“He was cut pretty bad,” Farias said. “I think he should be good this time.”