10/03/2005 12:00AM

Another sprint, another new winner

Roman Ruler, finishing second to Rock Hard Ten in Saturday's Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap, is on the fence for the Breeders' Cup Classic, said his trainer, Bob Baffert.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Lacking a definitive leader, Southern California sprinters have taken turns beating one another this year. The trend will not change in Saturday's $250,000 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap at Oak Tree at Santa Anita.

Each of the six probable starters - Bear in the Woods, Bilo, Captain Squire, Gotaghostofachance, McCann's Mojave, and Zanzibar - lacks a graded stakes win in 2005.

Missing from the list of probable starters are the eight winners of graded stakes on the circuit this year: Areyoutalkintome, the winner of the El Conejo Handicap; Forest Grove, Los Angeles Times Handicap; Greg's Gold, Bing Crosby Handicap; Harvard Avenue, Potrero Grande BC Handicap; Hasty Kris, San Carlos Handicap; Imperialism, Pat O'Brien Handicap; Saint Afleet, Palos Verdes Handicap; and Unfurl the Flag, Triple Bend.

A six-furlong race, the Ancient Title drew 15 nominations, and Gotaghostofachance is not one of them. Scratched from Saturday's Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap, Gotaghostofachance must be supplemented to the Ancient Title for $5,000 when entries are taken Thursday.

With its status as a Grade 1 stakes, Ancient Title could produce a few outsider candidates for the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Belmont Park on Oct. 29. Bear in the Woods, who was second in the Triple Bend but a troubled fifth in the Pat O'Brien Handicap, could go to New York with a strong run in the Ancient Title.

Though he is nominated, the field is unlikely to include the promising Estate Collection, who won the Kentucky Cup Sprint on Sept. 17 to remain unbeaten after three starts. Trained by Doug O'Neill, Estate Collection will probably go straight to the BC Sprint.

"It's 80 percent waiting for the Breeders' Cup and 20 percent running" in the Ancient Title, O'Neill said.

Of the six probable starters for the Ancient Title, Captain Squire is the only one with Breeders' Cup experience. He was seventh in the 2003 BC Sprint. Trained by Jeff Mullins, Captain Squire, 6, won his only start this year, an optional claimer over 5 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar on Aug. 24, which ended a layoff of more than 14 months.

Rock Hard Ten bound for Classic

Trainer Richard Mandella was as thrilled with the way Rock Hard Ten came out of his victory in the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap as he was with victories by two people quite close to him.

Rock Hard Ten returned from a near seven-month layoff to win the Goodwood in his final prep for the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 29 at Belmont Park. Gary Stevens was in for the ride.

"He did it pretty handily, I thought," Mandella said Monday morning. "It couldn't have gone any better. Gary gave him a great ride. He just taunted the leader, and when Gary asked him, he put him away in about five strides.

"He'll do most of his training for the Classic here. He'll probably ship to Belmont Park around a week out, give or take a day."

Mandella also took pride and satisfaction in victories by his son, Gary, with Taste of Paradise in the Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park, and by former assistant Dan Hendricks with Brother Derek in the Norfolk Stakes. Hendricks was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident in July 2004.

"Dan is amazing," Mandella said. "I mean, he missed just six weeks last year with a broken neck. Some people take vacations that long. It's a credit to him, his stable crew, the owners who stood by him, and his family. They all gave him something to live for."

Roman Ruler on fence for Classic

Trainer Bob Baffert said Monday he's "not sure yet" whether Roman Ruler, who was second to Rock Hard Ten in the Goodwood, would seek a rematch in the Classic.

"I think he got beat by the horse who's probably going to win the Breeders' Cup," Baffert said. "He ran a good race. I don't know if he's ready to run against a bunch of older, mature horses. But he showed he belonged. I'd like to run in the Breeders' Cup. I've got a few weeks to think about it. The best reason to go is that he was just second to the best horse in training."

Designed for Luck ready for 2005 debut

Designed for Luck, 8, who has recovered from two serious injuries in the last three years, makes his 2005 debut in Saturday's $250,000 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile, a race he won in 2003.

Owned by David and Holly Wilson and trained by Vladimir Cerin, Designed for Luck has not started since winning the Grade 1 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile at Hollywood Park in May 2004. A small tear in his suspensory was diagnosed two months after that race. Designed for Luck also missed 18 months because of a hock injury suffered in the spring of 2002.

The field for the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile is expected to include Singletary, the winner of the 2004 BC Mile. Singletary finished third in the 2004 Oak Tree Mile. Sunday at Hollywood Park, Singletary worked six furlongs in 1:12.20, the best of 11 works at the distance.

Other probable starters for Sunday's race are Buckland Manor, We All Love Aleyna, and Wild Buddy.

Sharp declines in attendance, handle

Business slumped alarmingly during the first week of the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting.

Through Sunday, the fifth day of the meeting, total ontrack attendance was 49,967, a decline of 9.5 percent from 2004.

Handle figures were also down. The total ontrack handle of $10,136,520 marked a decline of 6.3 percent, and the total all-sources handle of $39,314,482 marked a decline of 14 percent.

Saturday's program drew 23,704, fewer than the 25,000 estimated by management, according to Oak Tree executive vice-president Sherwood Chillingworth. The corresponding program in 2004 drew 26,079.

Saturday's program was not helped by 12 scratches. The day's top race, the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap, had two scratches, reducing the field to four starters.

A pick four pool on the final four races Saturday was guaranteed to reach $400,000, but the pool was only $377,910. Sunday, the same bet had a pool of $461,401.

Chillingworth said purses are "not yet" in danger of being trimmed.

Riders request program note on weights

A group of jockeys and representatives of the Jockeys' Guild met with the stewards and track management Saturday, asking that a statement be included in track programs indicating that a rider's published weight does not include safety equipment such as helmet or vest.

During the summer, Hollywood Park ran a statement in its program stating "the weight listed in the program for each horse to carry does not include approximately five pounds of jockey safety equipment."

Track officials said they have not finalized the language that will appear in the Santa Anita program.

"All we're trying to do is tell the public that there is weight that is not included," said steward John Herbuveaux.

Jockeys are concerned that the difference between a jockey's assignment and the actual weight carried could create the perception of wrongdoing, or at least confusion, when the public watches the scale when a rider weighs in after a race.

With the safety equipment included, jockeys weigh several pounds more than the assigned weights. Including the mud and dirt that a jockey picks up on their clothing during a race, carried weight can be six or seven pounds higher than a published weight.

"When we come back with dirt and everything, people see the scale go like this and they're saying, 'Hey?' " jockey Garrett Gomez said.

On Sept. 21, a former New York Racing Association clerk of scales and his assistant were indicted by the New York attorney general for allegedly allowing jockeys to ride at weights higher than their assigned weights. Five jockeys were named in the indictment, but none was charged.

The issue of jockey's weight is on the agenda at Thursday's California Horse Racing Board meeting in Fresno.

Forest Grove retired at 4

, who finished 10th in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap in July after winning the Los Angeles Times Handicap in May, has been retired and sent to Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky for stud duty, trainer Eoin Harty said.

Owned by Aaron and Marie Jones, Forest Grove, 4, won 5 of 16 starts and $281,130. A stakes winner on turf at The Meadowlands when trained by Todd Pletcher in 2004, Forest Grove was second in the Daytona Handicap and Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap earlier this year with Harty.

"He had a hard campaign," Harty said. "He wasn't going to make it back without a struggle."

- additional reporting by Jay Privman