12/26/2003 1:00AM

Atswhatimtalknbout out for meet


ARCADIA, Calif. - Atswhatimtalknbout, the fourth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby earlier this year, is not expected to start at the Santa Anita meeting because of lingering foot problems, trainer Ron Ellis said.

The well-regarded but lightly raced Atswhatimtalknbout has battled an abscess and dead tissue in a front foot in recent months and is not in serious training.

"We're growing his foot out right now," Ellis said. "We can't train him until it grows out. It's just going slow."

The minor injury will cost Atswhatimtalknbout a chance to start in such lucrative races as the $300,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds on Feb. 7 or the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 6.

"I would estimate he'd miss the meeting," Ellis said. "It will take four months to get ready when I start training him."

Ellis said Atswhatimtalknbout will have a campaign geared toward the summer and fall. "We're on the Pleasantly Perfect schedule," he said, referring to the Breeders' Cup Classic winner who was out early in 2003 with injury.

Owned by B. Wayne Hughes and the Biscuit Stable, Atswhatimtalknbout has won 2 of 6 starts and $209,120 but has yet to win a stakes. Last spring, Atswhatimtalknbout finished second in the San Felipe Stakes and fourth in the Santa Anita Derby, losing both races to Buddy Gil.

In the Kentucky Derby, Atswhatimtalknbout rallied from 12th in a field of 16 to finish two lengths behind Funny Cide.

Monrovia may end up on dirt

The top race on Monday's program is the $100,000 Monrovia Handicap for fillies and mares, but the surface of the Grade 3 sprint may not be known until race day.

The Grade 3 Monrovia is scheduled for about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course but the threat of rain could lead to a transfer to the main track.

Races on the hillside turf course are often taken off the surface in the event of a small amount of rain because of concerns over the crossing from the hillside portion of the turf course to the oval.

Monrovia contender Roberta's Mango ran on the hillside course twice during the Oak Tree meeting, finishing seventh in the Grade 3 Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap and sixth in the California Cup Distaff.

Trainer Julio Canani says a troubled trip cost Roberta's Mango in the Distaff.

"She wouldn't have won but she could have been third," Canani said. "She took up coming down the hill."

Canani admits he is worried that the form of Roberta's Mango has regressed since she went through a span of four wins in five starts from March to August, which included a win in the Daisy Cutter Handicap at Del Mar.

"She's tailed off a little bit, but she's doing good," he said. "I don't know if she'll do as good as on turf."

Roberta's Mango has won twice on dirt, but the wins came against maiden claimers at Fairplex Park and a $32,000 claiming race at Santa Anita in the summer and fall of 2002.

The Monrovia field is led by Dedication, who was third in the Matriarch Stakes on Nov. 30, and Spring Star, unraced since winning the Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap at Del Mar in September.

The other probables include Chercheuse, Dreamers Glory, Icantgoforthat, Polygreen, and Sweetcakesanshakes. Icantgoforthat is suited to both surfaces. She won the now-defunct Survive Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on dirt last January and has placed in two graded stakes on the hillside turf course in the last year.

Elusive City will sprint for Mandella

Elusive City, the winner of the Group 1 Prix Morny in France in 2002, is nearing his U.S. debut and first start for trainer Richard Mandella.

A 3-year-old owned by The Thoroughbred Corp., Elusive City is likely to appear in sprints, although Mandella has yet to choose a specific race.

Friday, Elusive City worked five furlongs in 1:03.80. Mandella timed the final half-mile in 50 seconds.

Mandella said he chose to pass Friday's Malibu Stakes because Elusive City was not ready to run the seven-furlong distance.

"I didn't have him up to seven-eighths yet," Mandella said. "It would have been too far for him."

Elusive City and Johar, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf in October, will not be part of a planned dispersal of horses of racing age owned by The Thoroughbred Corp. at the Barretts March sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Johar is not in serious training, Mandella said. Having finished unplaced in the Japan Cup on Nov. 30, Johar is being given a brief rest.

Mandella said Johar would be geared for a late spring start with a possible race at this meeting in advance of two major stakes at Hollywood Park - the Jim Murray Memorial and Charles Whittingham handicaps.

San Rafael next target for Lion Heart

Lion Heart, the undefeated winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 20, is being pointed for the $200,000 San Rafael Stakes on March 6.

Trainer Patrick Biancone on Friday said that Lion Heart is being given a "holiday" and that the one-mile San Rafael Stakes will be a prep for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 3.

Victory U. S. A. will point for Santa Ynez

Victory U. S. A., the beaten favorite in the Hollywood Starlet Stakes last weekend, will reappear in the $150,000 Santa Ynez Stakes at seven furlongs on Jan. 19, trainer Bob Baffert said.

Victory U. S. A. finished 11 1/4 lengths behind Hollywood Story in the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes. Earlier in the fall, Victory U. S. A. won the Moccasin Stakes at Hollywood Park and finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.