01/10/2003 1:00AM

California breeding: Siberland outgrowing Arizona digs


ARCADIA, Calif. - Siberland, widely considered one of the top 2-year-old California-breds of 2002, may be on the verge of outgrowing his surroundings at Turf Paradise in Phoenix.

For the last three months, Siberland has been based at Turf Paradise with trainer Kevin Lewis, far from the spotlight cast on Triple Crown hopefuls at Santa Anita.

On Sunday, Siberland tries for his third stakes win in the $35,000 Rattlesnake Stakes at one mile. Lewis and owner Dennis Weir are aware that a victory in the modest stakes could lead to a start in California.

"If he handles the mile, which I'm sure he will, there is a $100,000 race, the Turf Paradise Derby, here on Feb. 1," Lewis said. "Then, the logical thing is to go to California."

Siberland will be a heavy favorite in the Rattlesnake Stakes, which could enhance a reputation that has been growing since last summer.

After losing his first two starts at Hollywood Park last summer, Siberland won a six-furlong maiden race by 6 1/2 lengths at Del Mar on Aug. 18. He followed with an equally convincing win in the I'm Smokin Stakes for California-breds at six furlongs on Sept. 9, a performance that seemed to be an ideal prep for the California Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita in early November.

But, an illness kept Siberland away from the races through the fall.

"I wasn't concerned about his illness, but it drew on longer than I thought it would," Lewis said. "I can't say it was serious, but it took a long time."

Siberland was considered for the California Breeders' Champion Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, but instead resurfaced in the $50,000 Arizona Juvenile Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs at Turf Paradise on Dec. 21. He won by 4 1/2 lengths, pushing his career record to three wins in five starts with earnings of $131,180.

Siberland, a gelding, was bought for $6,000 as a yearling at the 2001 Barretts January sale. Bred by George Bassett Jr., Siberland is by Siberian Summer, who stands at Creston Stud Farm for a stud fee of $5,000.

Siberland is out of Valley Deb, a 16-year-old mare by Debonair Roger who was stakes placed in a two-year racing career.

Siberian Summer had a strong crop of 2-year-olds in 2002. He is also the sire of Summer Wind Dancer, winner of the California Cup Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles.

Lewis is not concerned about the Rattlesnake Stakes distance of one-mile for Siberland, reflecting on comments made by jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. last summer.

"Laffit said he wouldn't have had any problems going two turns," Lewis said. "I think the colt is pretty professional. He'll do what you want. I think the main thing is to get him to relax."

A win on Sunday could lead to a $600 investment by Weir to nominate Siberland for the Kentucky Derby. The application was on Lewis's desk in his Turf Paradise office on Friday morning - with weekend results likely to determine if it's ever used.

Quicken Tree now run in June

The California Gold Rush program at Hollywood Park on April 26 has been altered.

The $100,000 Quicken Tree Stakes at 1 1/2 miles on turf has been moved from Gold Rush Day to June 15. It has been replaced by a new race, the $150,000 Tiznow Stakes for older horses at 7 1/2 furlongs. The Tiznow Stakes has conditions similar to the On Trust Handicap, which is run during the Hollywood Park fall meet.

"The Tiznow gives us a chance to get the dirt horses that we didn't have a spot for," said Martin Panza, Hollywood Park's racing secretary.

By moving the Quicken Tree to June, Panza is hoping to attract any California-breds that start in the Grade 1 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap at about 1 3/4 miles on turf at Santa Anita on April 20.

Last year, there were three California-breds in the San Juan, none of whom returned in the Quicken Tree in late April.

The California Gold Rush offers 10 races for statebreds, including six stakes worth $100,000 or more. The top races are the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles and the $200,000 Melair Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.