04/14/2005 12:00AM

Baffert sending Sort It Out to Lexington

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Don't count trainer Bob Baffert out of the Triple Crown just yet.

Baffert said Thursday that he plans to send Sort It Out to the $325,000 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 23.

Sort It Out finished third in the $500,000 WinStar Derby at Sunland Park on April 2. He was beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Thor's Echo after closing from sixth. Owned by Preferred Pals Stable and Stonerside Stable, Sort It Out has won 4 of 11 starts and $207,375.

"He needs distance," Baffert said.

None of Sort It Out's earnings has come in graded stakes, making the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes a vital start if he has is to have any chance of earning a berth in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7. If the Derby draws more than 20 entries, the field is determined by graded stakes earnings.

Baffert was not discouraged by Sort It Out's third in the WinStar Derby, a month after the colt finished eighth in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in early March.

"You never know with 3-year-olds," he said. "You've got to run well in your last prep."

Baffert has had a disappointing season with 3-year-olds this year. His onetime best hope, Roman Ruler, the winner of the Grade 2 Norfolk Stakes last fall, is out with a foot problem.

Four in a row for Awesome Dividend

The Baffert-trained Awesome Dividend earned a spot in the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at Hollywood Park on May 14 after scoring his fourth consecutive win in a $60,000 optional claimer over a mile on Wednesday. Ridden by Casey Fusilier, Awesome Dividend rallied from fourth to win by four lengths in 1:36.03.

"He gets to race against the big boys now," Baffert said.

Owned by John and Bettina Deininger, Awesome Dividend has won 6 of his last 7 starts, beginning with a 13-length victory in a maiden claimer at Del Mar last July. His streak includes an allowance race at Hollywood Park in December, an optional claimer here in January and a starter allowance here in March.

"He likes his races spaced," Baffert said.

Baffert is hoping that Awesome Dividend can progress to the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 9. The Gold Cup is run over 1 1/4 miles. This year, the race has reverted to a handicap after several years as a weight-for-age race.

Summer in Kentucky for Chandtrue

Chandtrue, a three-time stakes winner at 2 last year, has been shipped to Kentucky and will resume training with Elliott Walden, former trainer Bob Hess said.

Winless in two starts this year, Chandtrue is being given a month off in Kentucky, Hess said. After going unbeaten in four starts last year, Chandtrue finished sixth in the Baldwin Stakes on March 5 and fourth in the San Pedro Stakes on March 26. Owned by Harold Greene, Chandtrue has earned $187,861.

"Elliott Walden will take over his training for the summer," Hess said, adding that Chandtrue "may return to California for the fall. We think he needs a change of scenery. Elliott is doing Bob Hess and Harold Greene a favor."

Baze closing gap

Jockey Tyler Baze had one winner on Wednesday to draw within four of leader Patrick Valenzuela with five days of racing remaining.

While Valenzuela appeared to have a strong list of mounts for Thursday, he is riding at Oaklawn Park on Saturday. Baze rides here on Saturday and has nine mounts on the 11-race program. Valenzuela has 59 victories.

Megahertz going for three-peat

Monday is the closing day of the spring-summer meeting.

The final two days of the meeting are highlighted by turf stakes.

Sunday, Megahertz will try for an unprecedented third consecutive win in the $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap over 1 1/4 miles on turf. She will be face a small field expected to include Ask for the Moon, Hoh Buzzard, Midwife, Moscow Burning, and Uraib.

Moscow Burning has not started since finishing a troubled fifth in the $500,000 Sunshine Million Filly and Mare Turf at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 29, a race she lost by only three-quarters of a length.

The top race on Monday's program is the $100,000 San Simeon Handicap over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course. The probable starters are Geronimo, Golden Arrow, Lazzeri, and Royal Price, and McCann's Mojave.

* Casey Fusilier, 17, has left Southern California and will relocate to Hawthorne or Churchill Downs, according to his agent, Susan McBrayer. Through Wednesday, Fusilier had won 15 races from 104 mounts at this meeting.