02/24/2004 1:00AM

Castledale's burning up the dirt

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Can another European grass horse win the Santa Anita Derby? Euro-import The Deputy won it in 2000, and now the Irish-bred Castledale will attempt the feat this year. Castledale won his U.S. debut for trainer Jeff Mullins on Nov. 29 in the Grade 3 Generous Stakes at Hollywood Park, but has never raced on dirt. "He's never run on it, but he's working like a monster on it," Mullins said.

A series of blazing main-track workouts gives Mullins reason to believe Castledale will make a successful transition. In a five-furlong work Feb. 11, he blew past two workmates in a clocking of 58.40 seconds. He followed Feb. 20 with a best-of-the-morning work in 59 seconds. Castledale was sired by Peintre Celebre, and is owned by Gree Knee and Television Games Network broadcaster Frank Lyons.

Castledale is aiming for the Grade 2 San Rafael Stakes on March 6, a mile race expected to be the 2004 debut of unbeaten Lion Heart. A good showing in the one-mile San Rafael by Castledale would give Mullins reason to try to win the Santa Anita Derby for the second straight year. Last year's Santa Anita Derby winner, Buddy Gil, is still trying to regain top form.

Buddy Gil worked seven furlongs Tuesday, and Mullins said he will start next in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap or $6 million Dubai World Cup. "It's either stay here for the Big Cap or go there," Mullins said. "Knowing what [Dubai] does to your horse, I'd rather stay here."

A troubled 10th in his most recent start on Feb. 7, Buddy Gil worked in company with stablemate The Eden. Buddy Gil was hardly urged in the work, timed in 1:25.20. The Eden was timed in 1:25.40. Buddy Gil was invited to the Dubai World Cup and Godolphin Mile, while The Eden was invited to the U.A.E. Derby.

Pleasantly Perfect looking strong

Breeders' Cup Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect confirmed his status as solid favorite for $1 million Santa Anita Handicap with an outstanding mile workout Tuesday in company with stablemate Olmodavor, who also will run in the Big Cap. While both horses were timed in 1:37.20, the positive visual impression made by Pleasantly Perfect indicates he will be difficult to beat when he heads a large Big Cap field on March 6.

Pleasantly Perfect and Olmodavor worked at 9:20 a.m. Pleasantly Perfect wore down Olmodavor in the stretch, after which trainer Richard Mandella said, "They couldn't look any better. Pleasantly Perfect was a little better, but Olmodavor is a little bit lazy."

Pleasantly Perfect wore down Olmodavor on the outside, though as Mandella said, "He had to work do do it. Olmodavor wasn't going to stop."

Regular rider Alex Solis was up on Pleasantly Perfect in the workout. Mandella needs a Big Cap rider for Olmodavor.

Solis also worked the 2003 champion 2-year-old filly Halfbridled for Mandella on Tuesday, getting five furlongs in 59 seconds, one-fifth slower than the fastest work of the morning. "It was a good work - she was only on half-throttle," Mandella said.

Halfbridled has not raced since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, and is aiming to come back March 13 in the Santa Anita Oaks. Other Mandella workers Tuesday included Baldwin stakes probable Minister Eric (49 seconds), San Rafael probable Spellbinder (1:26), and Johar (50.80 seconds).

Cerin has new purchase

The Grade 3 Baldwin Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita will provide a form line on one of the nation's top-ranked 3-year-olds: Tenace. Runner-up to Eurosilver in a Feb. 4 allowance at Gulfstream Park, Tenace was due to arrive Tuesday in California and make his first start for trainer Vladimir Cerin and owners David and Holly Wilson in the Baldwin. The reason to purchase the 3-year-old gelding was simple, according to Cerin. "Second to Eurosilver, who is the Derby favorite," he said.

And if wet weather continues? "I figure if it rains and the race is moved to dirt, I'm better off," Cerin said.

Tenace, 1 for 6 lifetime, won the only time he raced on a wet track at Calder. Cerin has won four races since November with horses purchased privately in Florida (Jerri Lynn, Flamethrowintexan, John's Kinda Girl, and Double Honor.). However, recently acquired Derby hopeful Twice as Bad, runner-up to Second of June in a stakes race at Calder, continues to nurse a foot abscess and has not had a recorded workout since Jan. 5.

In the Baldwin, scheduled for 6 1/2 furlongs on turf, Tenace will face Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Minister Eric, Four Song Limit, Jungle Prince, Moulin De Mougins, Teton Forest, and Wimplestiltskin.

Colt catches attention

It just won't be possible for the 3-year-old colt Rock Hard Ten to stay under the radar. His dazzling Feb. 7 debut victory at seven furlongs earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100, after which owner-breeder Madeleine Paulson received an offer well into seven figures to buy the colt, by Kris. S. "I've heard the same thing," Rock Hard Ton's trainer Jason Orman said, "but every time I go back to the barn, he's still there."

Rock Hard Ten worked six furlongs Tuesday at Santa Anita under jockey Corey Black. Clockers credited him with five furlongs in 1:00.80. Running wide through the turn, Rock Hard Ten loafed in the middle of the work, then flew home. Orman will decide later this week where Rock Hard Ten will make his next start.

* Big Cap probables Saint Buddy and Royal Place worked six furlongs Tuesday. Saint Buddy's tough trip when seventh in the Strub Stakes overshadows two facts: he is still eligible for the second allowance condition, and his career-high Beyer is only 106. He worked in 1:11.20. Royal Place worked in 1:11.60.

* Stakes runners who worked Tuesday at Hollywood Park include: Medaglia d'Oro, 1:01.40 breezing; Sightseek, 59 seconds, the fastest five-furlong work of the day; Master David, 1:13.20 for six furlongs; Megahertz, 1:01.40; Borrego, 1:14.80; and Last Minute Detail, 59.60.

* Don'tsellmeshort, who has won three California-bred stakes, will run somewhere Saturday. The colt was nominated to the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn and the Baldwin."He's running Saturday," trainer Dan Hendricks said. "It's either six and a half in the mud, six and a half down the hill, or a mile at Oaklawn." Don'tsellmeshort finished fourth in a stake race Jan. 24 after engaging in a severe pace duel.