01/30/2004 1:00AM

Bluesthestandard: best horse, bad bet

BC Sprint runner-up Bluesthestandard comes off a three-month layoff.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Can a horse that has not won a sprint in 10 months still be regarded as the top sprinter in California? Or is Bluesthestandard vulnerable when he returns Sunday in the Grade 2 at Santa Anita?

A talented field of eight entered the six-furlong race, Bluesthestandard's first since he finished second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Oct. 25. Bluesthestandard can win Sunday if he picks up where he left off, but improving upstarts Marino Marini and Our New Recruit stand in his way. Those three are the main entrants in the $150,000 race, while several others have appropriate credentials.

They include the Jeff Mullins-trained graded stakes winners Boston Common and Captain Squire, speedballs Giovanetti and Tough Game, and Summer Service. None are throwouts.

"It's a terrific race, there are no horses in there that are no good," trainer John Sadler said.

The analysis includes Sadler's Our New Recruit. "We think he's on his way up. We think he's a good horse," Sadler said.

Our New Recruit is not there yet, but could be soon. Our New Recruit was off seven months after having a knee chip removed, and powered to a career-best 104 Beyer Figure in his Oct. 26 comeback. Second start back, he set a wicked pace in the Grade 3 Underwood, and held second. He has been aimed for the Palos Verdes ever since.

Sadler needed a rider to replace Our New Recruit's last two jockeys. In the Palos Verdes, Tyler Baze chose to stick with Malibu Stakes runner-up Marino Marini; Mike Smith stays with Bluesthestandard. Emile Ramsammy worked Our New Recruit six furlongs in 1:12 early this week (final three furlongs in 34 seconds, according to Sadler) and gained the mount. Our New Recruit will be overlooked by many, and might be the best gamble on the card.

Bluesthestandard is the most accomplished horse in the field, having won 14 of 27 and $807,185. He lost some of his quickness over his 2003 campaign, but remains the class of the field. Trainer Ted H. West said he has trained perfectly up to his comeback, and the trainer expects a top effort.

From a handicapping and wagering perspective, however, Bluesthestandard is an enigma. He may have lost his speed, he has not raced in three months, and his odds will be low. The gelding may be the top sprinter in California. But 2004 is a new year, and there is no guarantee he will pick up where he left off.