Southern Image Hopes to be in Derby Picture

Blahut Stables, LLC's Southern Image, who is to make his stakes debut in Saturday's $150,000 San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs, worked over Santa Anita's fast main track Wednesday morning. Dense fog that hovered over the track all morning prevented clockers from recording an official time.

"I caught the last eighth in :11 and change," trainer Mike Machowsky said of the Florida-bred son of Halo's Image, who drilled four furlongs. "But he came out of it great and we're all ready to go."

Were Southern Image to turn in a strong effort in Saturday's early sophomore prep, Machowsky said he'd have no choice but to seriously consider continuing toward a Run for the Roses. But Machowsky said he's keeping his Derby Fever in check.

"With a nice horse like him, how could you not have a little Derby fever?" Machowsky said. "But we're going to do what's best for this horse and if he doesn't make it, he doesn't make it. We're more concerned with doing what's right for him and having a good horse down the road. There's lots of places to run and lots of spots to choose from, so we'll let him tell us what we should do next.

"If he runs well Saturday, we'll look to one of the two races here (the San Rafael and Santa Anita Derby) ... if all goes well then, we'll go on to Kentucky."

A second colt making is stakes debut in the San Vicente is the Wesley Ward-trained Runnin' on Nitro.

"He ran second going 6 ½ (furlongs) down the hill, and then he won by about 10 (actually 8 ½ lengths) and got a 100 Beyer," Ward said of the Kentucky-bred gelding by Elusive Quality, who was purchased for $55,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales.

"When I buy a 2-year-old, it has to be physically right and when you buy a 2-year-old in training they've got to be fast, their action has to be good and they have to show some intelligence," said the 34-year-old Ward.

"I believe in racing my young horses," Ward said. "If they're ready, we run. If there's any little problem, we turn them out."

Runnin' On Nitro has earned $33,000 to date for owners Ron Brewer, John Haagsma and Ward.

Rafael Becerra will test the waters with New Mexico invader Sum Trick, who was second in his debut at Sunland Park before breaking his maiden by 4 ½ lengths in the Riley Allison Futurity at Sunland on Dec. 29.

"He just broke his maiden but he was pretty impressive," Becerra said of the $190,000 Kentucky-bred son of 1998 Horse of the Year Favorite Trick. "We'll have to see (how good he is), because this is a tough race, but we've got to find out where we're at and take it from there."

Sum Trick has earned $82,531 for owner Stan E. Fulton.

Probable for the San Vicente: Kafwain, Victor Espinoza; Mr. Technique, Kent Desormeaux; Only The Best, Pat Valenzuela; Runnin' On Nitro, Jorge Chavez; Southern Image, Corey Nakatani; and Sum Trick, Tyler Baze.

(Santa Anita's Ed Golden contributed to this report.)