01/25/2002 1:00AM

California gets Derby Future Wagering

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ARCADIA, Calif. - California bettors will be able to participate in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager for the first time this year, but the timing of the second leg of the three-event bet may conflict with one of the leading preps run at Santa Anita.

The Future Wager is offered on three weekends during the winter and spring: Feb. 14-17, March 14-17, and April 4-7. Each pool will close at 2:30 p.m., Pacific on the final day of each weekend, which could pose a problem on March 17, the day of the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.

Major stakes at Santa Anita are usually run shortly after 4 p.m., which means the second pool would be closed before the San Felipe is run and bettors have had a chance to evaluate the results.

"This is definitely something we'll look into," said Jim McAlpine, the chief executive of Magna, which owns Santa Anita.

The San Felipe is expected to draw Siphonic, a top contender for the Kentucky Derby. He won the Hollywood Futurity last month, but was second in the Santa Catalina Stakes last weekend.

The betting pool for each Future Wager will consist of 23 runners and one field entry nominated by a panel. Only win bets will be available.

Santa Anita received permission Thursday from the California Horse Racing Board to add the Future Wager to its betting menu.

Also at the Thursday meeting, the CHRB approved a rule that will allow alternate selections for pick four bets, which have become popular in California in the last few years.

According to tote officials, the technology allowing an alternate selection can be in place in a matter of days. Under the previous format, bettors were left with the favorites when their selections were a late scratch from a pick four race.

Strub, San Antonio next weekend

The Strub Stakes and the San Antonio Handicap, the two major preps for the $1 million, Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 2, are among four stakes next weekend.

Both races annually provide runners for the Big 'Cap, the richest race of the meeting.

Saturday's $400,000 Strub Stakes, at 1 1/8 miles for 4-year-olds, is expected to draw the first three finishers of the San Fernando Stakes on Jan. 12: Western Pride, Orientate, and Fancy As. Jim Chapman, who trains Western Pride, said there was a chance he could ship Western Pride for the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park a week later.

Other probables include Giant Gentleman, I Love Silver, Mizzen Mast, Momentum, Palmeiro, Scorpion, and Wild and Wise.

Came Home, Werblin in San Vicente

Saturday's program also includes the $150,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds over seven furlongs. Though a sprint, the race often produces starters that appear in preps for the Santa Anita and Kentucky Derby.

The San Vicente is expected to include Came Home, Expected Program, Line Rider, Mighty David, Popular, and Werblin.

The seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds marks the first graded stake for Werblin, who earned a 107 Beyer Speed Figure winning a Dec. 26 allowance.

"(Werblin) is coming along real good and seven-eighths should be no problem," trainer Eduardo Inda said, "but there's another nice horse in there. Paco Gonzalez's horse is a nice horse."

Inda is right. The Gonzalez-trained Came Home, the winner of the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, will make his first start since finishing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Belmont Park on Oct. 27.

* The $125,000 Pro or Con Handicap for California-bred fillies and mares over a mile on turf will be run on Saturday as well.

* The $250,000 San Antonio Handicap on Sunday is run at 1 1/8 miles for older horses. Wooden Phone and Euchre, the first two finishers in the San Pasqual Handicap on Jan. 5, return and are expected to face Dig for It, Gander, Irisheyesareflying, and Straight Flush.

* Foot problems have forced Inda to delay the comeback of his promising 4-year-old Tamara Princess. A full sister to Riboletta, Tamara Princess won her first three starts before being derailed Sept. 29 in the Grade 2 Lady Secret Handicap. Originally expected to contest the La Canada Series, Tamara Princess had a quarter crack and another unspecified foot problem that postponed her return.

- additional reporting by Brad Free