01/02/2005 1:00AM

Areyoutalkintome best in El Conejo

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BENOIT PHOTO
Areyoutalkintome and jockey Tyler Baze storm through the mud to win the Grade III $100,000 El Conejo Handicap on Sunday at Santa Anita Park.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Doug O'Neill was the leading trainer at Del Mar, finished second at Oak Tree, won the Hollywood Park fall meeting, and is atop the Santa Anita standings because of a strong opening week. He sent out four winners on Sunday's card, including Areyoutalkintome in the Grade 3, $110,500 .

Neither rain, nor an off track, could keep Areyoutalkintome from his appointed rounds in the 5 1/2-furlong El Conejo, the shortest stakes race of the meet at Santa Anita.

Areyoutalkintome sped from the gate and engaged in a three-way battle for the lead with Woke Up Dreamin and Hombre Rapido through a swift 21.25-second opening quarter mile. Those three were still abreast after a half-mile in 43.86 seconds, but then Woke Up Dreamin, and finally Hombre Rapido, retreated, leaving Areyoutalkintome the winner by 1 3/4 lengths over Hombre Rapido in 1:02.52. Woke Up Dreamin was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third. McCann's Mojave, the 9-5 favorite, was fifth in the field of nine.

Because of wet weather earlier in the week, the track was rated wet-fast throughout the day. Showers began to fall anew one hour before the El Conejo. The track was floated, leaving it smooth and soaked on top, with a firm cushion underneath.

Tyler Baze, who rode Areyoutalkintome because regular rider Corey Nakatani is in the midst of a 30-day suspension, said O'Neill told him to "warm him up pretty good," sage advice on a bone-chilling afternoon.

"He's a really nice horse with a big heart," Baze said.

"He's a hard tryer," O'Neill said. "If you get him into the race early, he's usually right there. He doesn't worry about what kind of track you throw at him, and we were hoping some of the others might not run their best over it."

One of those was McCann's Mojave, whom jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. said "just didn't care for it."

Areyoutalkintome, a 4-year-old gelding by Smokester, has now won six times in 15 starts. He has won five times in 12 starts, including three stakes, since O'Neill claimed him for owners Ron Manzani and Russ Sarno in December 2003.

O'Neill said Areyoutalkintome would make his next start in the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint at Santa Anita on Jan. 29.