04/18/2002 11:00PM

Cal-breds try to end San Juan drought


ARCADIA, Calif. - Secretariat was a 3-year-old the last time a California-bred won the San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap.

On April 7, 1973, Secretariat won the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. A few hours later, Queen's Hustler pulled an upset in the San Juan, holding off a late rally by Big Spruce and Cougar II to win by a head.

There are no Secretariats in this year's 3-year-old crop, and there are no Big Spruces or Cougars in Sunday's $400,000 San Juan Capistrano. But there are three California-breds attempting to end a nearly 30-year drought in the marathon turf race, run over about 1 3/4 miles.

The chances of Continental Red, Speedy Pick, and Ringaskiddy cannot be dismissed. They were first, third, and fourth, respectively, in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Stakes over 1 1/2 miles on turf on March 16, the last major prep for the San Juan.

Continental Red's victory in the San Luis Rey has made him the 117-pound highweight for the San Juan Capistrano. A 6-year-old gelding owned and bred by Wes and Sharon Fitzpatrick, Continental Red won his first stakes in the San Luis Rey Stakes, ending a year of frustration for the Fitzpatricks and trainer Ian Jory.

Last year, Continental Red was second in the Escondido Handicap at Del Mar and third in the Quicken Tree Stakes at Hollywood Park. Before winning the San Luis Rey, he finished second in the San Luis Obispo Handicap and San Marcos Stakes at this meeting.

By Flying Continental, Continental Red is the first and most successful foal of Sharp Looking Lady, a 10-year-old mare by Glaros who was unraced.

Ringaskiddy won the Quicken Tree Stakes for California-breds at Hollywood Park last April in a 22-1 upset. Bred by Robert and Barbara Walter, the 6-year-old Ringaskiddy has won 5 of 44 starts and $352,471. Trained by Juan Garcia, Ringaskiddy is in the midst of his best year, which includes a win in an allowance race over 1 1/8 miles on turf in late January.

"He's just following in the footsteps of Tout Charmant and Lazy Slusan," Barbara Walter said, referring to two Grade 1 mares the couple has bred. "They all three are Slewvescents."

Speedy Pick is still eligible for allowance races, but ran a good race at 58-1 in the San Luis Rey Stakes. By Bertrando, Speedy Pick led by 2 1/2 lengths in midstretch and was beaten only a neck by Continental Red. Bred and owned by Ed Nahem, the 4-year-old Speedy Pick has yet to win a stakes for trainer Marty Jones.

Gold Rush fever

All three San Juan contenders were nominated to the $100,000 Quicken Tree Stakes at Hollywood Park on April 28, part of the California Gold Rush Day. Understandably, their recent form justifies chasing bigger prizes.

The Gold Rush program offers 10 races for California-breds - six stakes and four overnights.

The main race is the $250,000 Cal Fed Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles. This year, the race will lose Lusty Latin to the Kentucky Derby. Lusty Latin was third in the Santa Anita Derby on April 6.

His absence leaves a field void of stakes winners. The probables are Calkins Road, Enorme, Gobi Dan, Good Terms, Menacing Dennis, and Modernist.

The quality of the other stakes vary. The $175,000 Khaled Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on turf will feature Fit for a King, Hugh Hefner, Lily's Lad, Native Desert, and Spinelessjellyfish, a solid group of milers. Fit for a King is trying for his eighth consecutive win.

Go Go, the winner of the Desert Stormer Handicap last summer, will be favored if she starts in the $150,000 B. Thoughtful Stakes for fillies and mares over seven furlongs. Trainer Warren Stute said a workout on Sunday will determine her participation.

Without the San Juan Capistrano starters, the Quicken Tree will include Adminniestrator, Fade to Blue, Our Main Man, Scoring Slew, Suspicious Minds, and White Cloud.

The $200,000 Melair Stakes for 3-year-old fillies over 1 1/16 miles and the $175,000 Fran's Valentine Stakes for fillies and mares over 1 1/16 miles on turf will not have as strong of fields.

o Red, the winner of the 1997 California Cup Sprint, was represented by his first winner when Red Spark led throughout a maiden race over 4 1/2 furlongs at Turf Paradise last Tuesday. Red stands at Schvaneveldt Ranch in Romoland, Calif.