05/02/2004 11:00PM

Big day gives Court some track cred


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Jon Court is the newest addition to the jockey roster in Southern California, having arrived in late March from the Midwest.

With his move here comes scrutiny from rival horsemen and other observers who are prone to predict whether a newcomer will make an impression and stay, as Javier Santiago has done since January, or leave town in a few months.

If Court has more rides like he did at Hollywood Park on Saturday, he will become a fixture in Southern California.

Court rode two winners - Call a Judge in a maiden race on turf and Leroidesanimaux in the Grade 3 Inglewood Handicap. Court was helped by the absence of several top local riders who rode at Churchill Downs on Friday and Saturday.

"It opened up a great opportunity," he said. "I don't deny that. It helps establish that I'm here. I've had some slow days but that comes with the game."

Through Sunday, Court was tied for seventh in the standings with four wins. He is not expected to win the riding title, a milestone he achieved five consecutive years at Ellis Park from 1998 to 2002.

"Guys can get a little down if they're not the leading rider and they are used to that," he said. "I'm happy with where I am."

Court, 43, moved to California at the insistence of top trainer Doug O'Neill, who rode Court last year on such major stakes winners as Excessivepleasure and Fleetstreet Dancer. Last November, Fleetstreet Dancer pulled an upset in the $2.26 million Japan Cup Dirt at Tokyo Racecourse, which remains the richest career win for Court and O'Neill.

The win aboard Leroidesanimaux lowered the course record for 1 1/16 miles on turf. Leroidesanimaux, a front-runner who was timed in 1:38.45, finished two lengths in front of Designed for Luck.

"I knew I was clipping along," Court said. "I took no prisoners down the stretch. They really kept coming at me."

Saturday, Court rides the O'Neill-trained Pohave in the $150,000 Los Angeles Times Handicap over six furlongs. Court rode Pohave to a third-place finish in the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap over seven furlongs March 7, which was Pohave's stakes debut. At the time, Court was riding at Gulfstream Park, and came to California for the stakes mount.

Pohave is Court's next major mount. Court has no rides Wednesday at Hollywood Park.

A few more days like Saturday will solve that problem.

St Averil likely out for year

St Averil, scratched from Saturday's Kentucky Derby because of a sore foot, is unlikely to start again this year, trainer Rafael Becerra said.

The winner of the Santa Catalina Stakes in January, St Averil will spend 90 days on a farm in Kentucky before a decision is made on a return to training, Becerra said.

St Averil had trained in bar shoes in recent weeks to alleviate pressure on a sore foot. He was withdrawn from the Kentucky Derby last Friday.

Owned by Stan Fulton, St Averil was considered an outsider in the Kentucky Derby. By Saint Ballado, St Averil had won 2 of 5 starts, including a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes in March and a sixth as the favorite in the Santa Anita Derby on April 3.

Manhattan next for Meteor Storm

Meteor Storm, the winner of the San Juan Capistrano Handicap at Santa Anita on April 19, will make his next start in the Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park on June 5, trainer Wally Dollase said.

Meteor Storm had been considered for Saturday's $350,000 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf.

Without Meteor Storm, the list of candidates for the Murray includes Ballingarry, Continental Red, Gassan Royal, Rhythm Mad, and Runaway Dancer.

Rhythm Mad finished second in the San Juan Capistrano and is the probable favorite.

The Murray is the top race on a day that includes two $150,000 stakes - the Los Angeles Times Handicap over six furlongs and the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap over 1 1/16 miles.

The probable starters for the Mervyn LeRoy are Buckland Manor, Even the Score, Olmodavor, Star Cross, The Eden, and Total Impact. Saint Buddy was nominated, but is entered for an allowance race on turf Wednesday.

The probable starters for the Los Angeles Times Handicap are Hombre Rapido, Marino Marini, Our Bobby V., Pohave, Rojo Toro, and Summer Service.

Sunday's top race is the first Grade 1 of the meeting, the $250,000 Vanity Handicap over 1 1/8 miles for fillies and mares. There will not be many starters. Adoration, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Distaff last October and the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap at Santa Anita in March, heads a field that is expected to include Hope Rises, Star Parade, and Victory Encounter.

Adoration worked seven furlongs in 1:27.20 on Saturday.

Southern Image working up to Pimlico Special

Santa Anita Handicap winner Southern Image worked a mile in 1:36.60 on Sunday at Santa Anita, preparing for a start in the $500,000 Pimlico Special in Baltimore on May 14.

According to trainer Mike Machowsky, Southern Image ran the first half-mile in 49.60 seconds and the final quarter mile in 22.40 seconds.

Southern Image has won his last three starts, all stakes. He also won the Malibu Stakes in December and the Sunshine Millions Classic for California-breds and Florida-breds in January.

"What seems so amazing is he's relaxing now," Machowsky said. "He'll rate 10 lengths off a horse, canter along, and then at the quarter pole, in a matter of strides, he's on that horse's flank. He did it all on his own."

Baffert gets good and bad news with DQ

Trainer Bob Baffert is not commanding much respect with his 3-year-old maidens lately.

In Saturday's seventh race over 6 1/2 furlongs, Baffert had two runners: the first-time starter Cape Flyaway, who was sent off at 29-1, and Multiplication, who was 70-1 in his second start after finishing 11th of 12 in his debut.

Multiplication finished first, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Cape Flyaway, but was disqualified and placed second for causing interference in the stretch. Cape Flyaway returned $60.40. The $1 all-Baffert exacta paid $712.20.

"I couldn't figure out the price on Multiplication," said Tim Yakteen, Baffert's assistant at Hollywood Park. "Both horses had trained good, and they had real nice workouts. They both showed up."

The disqualification resulted in a three-day suspension for apprentice jockey Alex Bisono. He was given three days - Friday through Sunday - for careless riding but is expected to appeal, track stewards said.

Pesci looks ready for stakes

Pesci, the promising filly co-owned by actor Joe Pesci, won an allowance race by 8 1/2 lengths Friday and is expected to make her next start in a stakes.

Trainer Wesley Ward said the $100,000 Hawthorne Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on June 6 is a possibility.

In Friday's allowance race, Pesci engaged pacesetter Lucky in Love on the backstretch and was never threatened in the final half-mile. She finished 1 1/16 miles in a sharp 1:40.83 under jockey Mike Smith.

"I wanted to see if she could do that," said Joe Pesci.

Derby Day handle and attendance up

Hollywood Park showed a sharp increase in attendance and handle figures for Saturday's Kentucky Derby program compared to last year. The ontrack attendance of 21,452 marked a gain of 4 percent. The ontrack handle of $4,885,425 was a gain of 5.4 percent, while the all-sources handle of $24,198,385 improved 7.1 percent.