04/27/2007 11:00PM

Wilko to try new surface for first time


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The first-place purse of $34,800 in Tuesday's seventh race at Hollywood Park is a pittance compared to the $2,428,173 that Wilko has amassed in his four-year career.

But a victory for Wilko in the optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles would be invaluable for a 5-year-old who is winless since upsetting the 2004 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Wilko has lost his last 15 starts since the BC Juvenile, but he has run well at times. He was third in the San Antonio and Santa Anita handicaps in 2006 and placed second via disqualification in the $6omillion Dubai World Cup in 2006.

This year, Wilko has finished fourth in two starts at Santa Anita after returning from a severe bout with colic last fall. Wilko was beaten 4 1/4 lengths in an optional claimer over a mile on turf on Feb. 10, and was beaten 5 1/4 lengths in the Santana Mile Handicap over a mile on dirt March 11.

Tuesday's race, the seventh on an eight-race card, will be Wilko's first start on a synthetic track. He has trained on that surface since last fall.

"It has really helped his feet," trainer Craig Dollase said of the synthetic track. "I think this is a good spot. This will be his third race off a layoff. Hopefully, he'll finish and pass some horses."

Owned by Susan Roy and Paul Reddam, Wilko will be ridden for the first time by Michael Baze.

The race has drawn a field of nine, and only Jake Skate is coming off a win - in a $40,000 claimer at Santa Anita on April 18. Jake Skate is eligible to be claimed for $100,000, along with Courtly Jazz and Yes He's a Pistol.

Jake Skate won the Lafayette Stakes at Golden Gate Fields in January 2005 but has made only five subsequent starts.

Salty Humor and Courtly Jazz finished second and third in the Luck of the Irish Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on turf at Bay Meadows on March 18.

None of the entrants has started on Hollywood Park's synthetic track. All but Chips are Down and Salty Humor have had a workout over the track.

The optional claimer will be the first start away from turf for Union Avenue, the winner of the Grade 2 American Derby at Arlington Park last July. He joined trainer Neil Drysdale's stable over the winter and finished fifth in the Daytona Handicap on Santa Anita's hillside turf course Feb. 17.