11/14/2008 12:00AM

Zayat reopening shop in California


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Owner Ahmed Zayat, who pulled his horses out of California in the summer of 2007 because he did not want to race them over the Del Mar Polytrack, is sending a string to California next week, according to Bob Baffert and Mike Mitchell, who will train for him.

The number of Zayat-owned horses that will be sent to California is unclear. Sobhy Sonbol, Zayat's racing manager, was not available for comment. Baffert and Mitchell said on Friday that they would learn more this weekend as to what horses would be arriving.

"They're going to send me young horses," Baffert said. Zayat "wants to come back out here. They're supposed to be getting out here this weekend. They didn't say which ones they were sending, but that I'll really like them."

Mitchell said Friday he expected horses to arrive at his stable next week.

Zayat has owned such prominent horses as Baroness Thatcher, Downthedustyroad, and Point Ashley - all stakes winners in California.

The addition of Zayat-owned horses is a boost for Baffert. Earlier this fall, the Baffert-trained Midshipman, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, was sent by owner Sheikh Mohammed to Dubai for the winter.

"It's good he's coming to California because we need more owners," Baffert said of Zayat.

Zayat's team is one of several new stables being sent to California this year. Canadian trainers Reade Baker and Mark Casse will have horses in California for the first time this winter.

Wednesday-through-Sunday schedule

Santa Anita will conduct racing on a Wednesday-through-Sunday basis during its upcoming winter meeting, which is scheduled to run from Dec. 26 to April 19. The track's license to conduct the meeting is on the agenda for a California Horse Racing Board meeting in Davis, Calif., on Tuesday.

Last year, Santa Anita ran on a Thursday-through-Monday schedule but has shifted back to the one that was used in previous years.

The move will put Santa Anita on the same schedule as Gulfstream Park in Florida; both are owned by Magna Entertainment. By aligning schedules, the two tracks can extensively simulcast each other's races.

Track president Ron Charles said that racing on Mondays during the 2007-08 season "was successful for us, but without Gulfstream it will be difficult to justify racing on Monday and not on Wednesday," he said. "We can't be a stand alone. With Gulfstream, [Monday] is a good day of racing."

Last year, Santa Anita heavily promoted Mondays, offering free general admission. Charles said that emphasis will now be placed on Friday programs, including free general admission. "We'll do a lot of other promotions on Friday," he said.

Awesome Gem Hong-Kong bound

Awesome Gem, who finished sixth in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, will make his next start in the Hong Hong Mile on turf on Dec. 14, trainer Craig Dollase said.

A 5-year-old horse owned by the West Point Thoroughbreds syndicate, Awesome Gem has never raced outside of the United States.

"Why not try it?" Dollase said. "He's run some big races in the past. On his best day, he can step up and run with those kind of horses."

Awesome Gem will be part of an American contingent for the Hong Kong Mile that also is expected to include Kip Deville, the winner of the 2007 BC Mile and the runner-up to Goldikova in that race this year. In this year's BC Mile, Awesome Gem finished 4 1/4 lengths behind Goldikova.

Awesome Gem is winless in his last 10 starts, a span that includes a third in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic at Monmouth Park. In his career, Awesome Gem has won 4 of 21 starts and $1,219,882.

Believe in Hope's stock keeps rising

By default, Believe in Hope's ranking among California's 2-year-old males has risen in recent weeks, while the colt was getting over an illness.

Believe in Hope missed the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last month because of sickness. Since then, Midshipman, the winner of that race, and Coronet of a Baron, the third-place finisher in the BC Juvenile Turf, have been sent to Dubai.

In addition, Street Hero, the third-place finisher of the BC Juvenile, is out of training until early next year.

Believe in Hope recently resumed training at Hollywood Park. Trainer Ron Ellis is pointing the colt for the Santa Anita winter meeting.

It took Believe in Hope about three weeks to get over the illness, Ellis said. "The blood work is good now and he's happy," he said.

Owned by Mace and Samantha Siegel, Believe in Hope has 1 victory in 3 starts and earnings of $66,800. After winning a maiden race in his debut, Believe in Hope finished fifth in the Del Mar Futurity over seven furlongs and third behind Street Hero and Midshipman in the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita on Sept. 28.

Ellis said he does not have a race in mind for Believe in Hope's comeback, but has a clear long-term goal.

"I'm in good shape with him for the [Kentucky] Derby," Ellis said. "He's had some experience and he's been around two turns."

Bob Black Jack in Underwood

After three relatively quiet weeks of racing, Hollywood Park will offer the first two graded stakes of the autumn meeting next weekend - the Grade 3 Vernon Underwood Stakes for sprinters on Saturday and the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue Stakes over seven furlongs for 2-year-olds on Sunday.

The $100,000 Underwood field will include Bob Black Jack, who has not started since finishing 16th in the Kentucky Derby. The winner of the Sunshine Millions Dash in world-record time of 1:06.53 for six furlongs in January, Bob Black Jack returned to training in late summer.

Trainer Jim Kasparoff will use the Underwood as a prep for the $250,000 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita Dec. 26. "For me, the timing is perfect," he said.

The Prevue is led by Backbackbackgone, who is unbeaten in three starts, including two minor sprint stakes. The Prevue will be Backbackbackgone's graded-stakes debut.