02/13/2004 12:00AM

Adoration: The real deal or a fluke?


ARCADIA, Calif. - Adoration may have won the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff last fall, but she is not the richest mare in Monday's $250,000 Santa Maria Handicap at Santa Anita.

That distinction goes to Preeminence, a Japanese invader who has earned more than $5 million in 49 starts.

Adoration also may not go favored, a role that may go to Island Fashion, the 121-pound topweight who has won the La Brea Stakes and Santa Monica Handicap at this meeting.

Adoration drew post 6 and has seven rivals in the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap, run over 1 1/16 miles.

"We didn't scare anyone off," said trainer David Hofmans.

Adoration has made one start since the BC Distaff, finishing second to Santa Maria entrant Star Parade in the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood Park in December.

Adoration chased the front-running Star Parade that day and finished second by 3 1/2 lengths. The loss gave Adoration's critics a reason to suspect that her 40-1 upset in the BC Distaff was a fluke.

Hofmans defends Adoration's ability and says she can prove the skeptics wrong Monday and in the Santa Margarita Handicap here next month

"Nothing can take away from that," Hofmans said of Adoration's Breeders' Cup win. "She did what she needed to do on the day she needed to do it."

Adoration will not have a busy year. She is likely to be given a break following the Santa Margarita, although Hofmans admits that if she is in excellent form, that could be difficult to do. Either way, Adoration will be pointed for the BC Distaff at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30.

"We'll try to repeat in Lone Star," Hofmans said.

The Santa Maria is one of two graded stakes on Monday's 10-race program. The $200,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf has drawn 12 runners, including Fairly Ransom, the 2003 Del Mar Derby winner.

Cee Mister B not ready for Triple Crown

Despite an impressive maiden win in Thursday's sixth race, Cee Mister B will not be going to the Kentucky Derby.

Owners Irv and Louise Bergstein and trainer David Bernstein have more reasonable goals in the short-term future and hope Cee Mister B can develop into a candidate for the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for California-breds at Hollywood Park on April 24.

They did not seriously consider the Triple Crown before the first nomination deadline last month, Bernstein said.

"We're not going to rush him," Bernstein said. "He's a late foal and I think he'll develop into a nice horse."

On Thursday, Cee Mister B stalked the pace to early stretch and pulled clear to beat rival Cal-breds by three lengths. He finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.63 on a track that was playing slow.

"I think he's a runner," Bernstein said. "He made a couple of moves in the race."

Thursday's race was Cee Mister B's second start. He finished fourth in his career debut Jan. 10, rallying from 10th in the final quarter-mile. In the maiden win, Cee's Mister B paid $6.60.

"He was no secret," Bernstein said.

Cee Mister B was ridden by Kent Desormeaux, who scored three consecutive victories Thursday.

"I'm very high on him," said Desormeaux.

Stevens pulled out over security concerns

Jockey Gary Stevens took off his final mount Thursday after expressing concern about the security provided to jockeys on the path from the racetrack to the jockeys' room.

Stevens said he was "heckled" by a fan after he dismounted from Throw Me A Curve after Thursday's sixth race and that another fan aggressively approached him during the walk back to the jockey's room.

"Nothing bad happened, but something could happen," Stevens said. "I figured they'd have security on the other side of the tunnel, and there was none."

After races, jockeys walk back to the paddock through a tunnel and a path that leads from the racetrack to the paddock garden. For most of that walk on the path, the public is able to walk alongside riders. Many fans, especially children, often ask riders for goggles or autographs.

Stevens said he was approached during that walk by an aggressive fan and was upset that Santa Anita did not have ample security officials available to escort jockeys.

"I'm afraid something bad could happen," he said. "It would only take a second."

Stevens said that in similar scenarios at Saratoga, security guards are provided for each rider. At Santa Anita, a security guard is typically positioned on the path in front of the jockeys, and another guard walks with the final rider, who is typically the winner. Other security personnel are positioned along the path between the tunnel and the paddock to monitor fans.

Stevens did not ride the seventh race aboard Esmay, who finished fourth.

"I was shook up, and I was not in the state to ride," he said. "If they don't let me have my own security, then I don't need to be out there."

Santa Anita's general manager, Chris McCarron, said security would be increased on the path, and the security staff "will be more vigilant" in monitoring the public's interaction with jockeys.

San Rafael next up for Imperialism

Imperialism, the upset winner of the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes in his California debut

Feb. 7, is being pointed for the $200,000 San Rafael Stakes over a mile March 6.

Owned by Steve Taub, Imperialism has won 4 of 13 starts and $167,705. In the San Vicente over seven furlongs, Imperialism rallied from last to win by 1 1/4 lengths. The race was his first start for trainer Kristin Mulhall.

Mulhall does not consider Imperialism as a candidate to the Kentucky Derby but wants to try him in the San Rafael Stakes to see how he compares against other horses prepping for the Santa Anita Derby on April 3.

"Now that we're here, we might as well run in the San Rafael and see what he does," she said. "The next race will tell a lot more."

Imperialism previously raced in Florida, where he finished second in the Mecke Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on turf and third in the Foolish Pleasure Stakes on dirt over a mile and 70 yards at Calder.

Halfbridled eyes first start of year

Halfbridled, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2003, worked five furlongs in 1:02.80 on Friday and is a month away from her first start of the year in the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks on March 13.

Trainer Richard Mandella had considered Halfbridled for Sunday's Las Virgenes Stakes but pulled her from consideration when he was unhappy with her training. Halfbridled was coughing in late January.

"I gave her an easy workout, and she finished nicely," Mandella said. "I expect to press on and do seven-eighths next week and get the real work into her."

Halfbridled is unbeaten in four starts. She has not started since winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on Oct. 24.

Halfbridled is nominated to the Triple Crown, but Mandella said that a decision on whether she starts in the Kentucky Derby will not be made until April.

Halfbridled is offered in future pool for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks this weekend.

"She's got to come back at the same level that she went out," to be considered for the Kentucky Derby, Mandella said. "I'm more interested in getting her started back."