07/11/2001 12:00AM

Blueprint will rest after Sunset


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Blueprint's appearance in Sunday's $200,000 Sunset Handicap comes at an ideal time for trainer Bob Hess Jr.

Hess has had a rough meeting at Hollywood Park this summer, winning with two of 49 starters. A victory from Blueprint in the turf marathon would lift his stable's spirits and put him closer to having a starter in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Belmont Park in October.

A 6-year-old, Blueprint is the 116-pound starting highweight in the Sunset, which will be his first start since he finished third in the San Juan Capistrano Handicap at Santa Anita on April 14. Last March, he won the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap, his lone stakes win in five starts in this country.

"We wanted to give him a breather," Hess said. "We're all set. We've been planning on this for awhile."

In the Sunset, run over 1 1/2 miles on turf, Blueprint faces a small field, but several contenders, including Northern Quest, Dunhill, and Loving, all of whom have run well at Hollywood Park.

Hess does not have an extensive summer and fall campaign planned for Blueprint. After Sunday, Blueprint will start in the Man o' War Stakes or Turf Classic at the Belmont Park fall meeting.

"He'll only run twice between now and the Breeders' Cup," Hess said. "It was amazing how the San Juan tired him out."

Despite a disappointing meeting, Hess says the picture will brighten in coming months.

"It was worse than I expected," Hess said. "I didn't think it would be very good. I'm looking forward to the next six months."

Top Hit hits big time

Five months ago, Top Hit was a minor stakes winner at Turf Paradise, lacking the credentials for a realistic attempt at a graded stakes. Nearly half a year later, and with a change in running style, Top Hit is being prepared for Sunday's $500,000 Swaps Stakes.

According to trainer Kory Owens, the difference has been maturity and a new stalking style. Using his new style, Top Hit finished second by a neck to Until Sundown in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap on June 17, a performance that justified a try in the Swaps.

"We're trying to get him to relax and make one run," Owens said.

Owens credits jockey Garrett Gomez, who rode Top Hit to a third in the Grade 3 Laz Barrera Stakes on May 28, with helping the colt relax. Top Hit could get a good trip in the Swaps since there is ample speed in the race.

Run over 1 1/8 miles, the Swaps will be the longest race of Top Hit's career and his toughest. He faces a probable field of seven, including Congaree, who was third in the Kentucky Derby, Bayou the Moon, Hoovergetthekeys, Jamaican Rum, Speedy Pick, and Until Sundown.

On Wednesday, Top Hit worked five furlongs in 1:03.40. Even though the time was not fast, Owens described it as "just a blowout."

Until Sundown was scheduled to work this week, but trainer Laura de Seroux said she has opted for gallops. "I had a dot on my training chart, but I galloped through it," she said.

Stewards respond to Baffert

Jockey Victor Espinoza on Wednesday was given a three-day suspension for his role in the disqualification of Spicy Stuff last Sunday. Later in the day he received a stay, allowing him to appeal. Spicy Stuff finished first in an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles, but was disqualified to second for drifting into the path of Red Eye in the final furlong.

Bob Baffert, the trainer of Spicy Stuff, took exception to the decision, calling it "the most ridiculous DQ."

On Wednesday, the stewards defended their decision. "It was disheartening to see an ex-rider such as Baffert condoning that kind of riding," said steward Tom Ward. "But he's entitled to his opinion."

Riboletta's sister starts with a bang

Tamara Princess, a full-sister to Riboletta, the 2000 champion older filly or mare, made a successful debut on Wednesday, winning a maiden race over 6 1/2 furlongs.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Tamara Princess was timed in 1:15.24, winning by a length over Double Cat, a half-sister to War Chant, the 2000 Breeders' Cup Mile winner.

Tamara Princess engaged pacesetter Stormscape after a quarter-mile and held off Double Cat, who was third early, through the stretch.

"Those kind will make you famous," Smith said of Tamara Princess.

Bred in Brazil, Tamara Princess is owned by Aaron and Marie Jones and trained by Eduardo Inda. They are the connections of Riboletta, who is expected to make her 2001 debut late in the Del Mar meeting.