03/22/2004 1:00AM

Congaree eyes new target


ARCADIA, Calif. - Congaree has a new course for the rest of the year, and now he has a new place to start. After failing in a route race this year, he is returning to sprints. Congaree had been expected to go to the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct on April 10, but trainer Bob Baffert now says Congaree will run that day in the Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Stakes at Keeneland.

Both races are at seven furlongs. The Carter, however, is a Grade 1, whereas the Commonwealth is a Grade 2. In addition, the Carter is worth $350,000, the Commonwealth $250,000. But the Commonwealth will be held the same day as the Blue Grass Stakes, in which Baffert will run the 3-year-old colt Preachinatthebar. Keeneland affords one-stop shopping for Baffert.

"I'm taking a bunch of horses to Keeneland this year," Baffert said.

The Carter is expected to draw a strong field, including Ghostzapper, Strong Hope, and Badge of Silver. Congaree has been training sharply. On Sunday at Santa Anita, he zipped six furlongs in 1:11.60, the fastest time of 24 at the distance.

Keeneland, here we come

Another surprising addition to Keeneland's roster this spring is House of Fortune, who trainer Ron McAnally said will face Halfbridled and Madcap Escapade in the Ashland Stakes on April 3. House of Fortune had been expected to go to Oaklawn's Fantasy Stakes on April 9. But the Ashland is a Grade 1 race, the Fantasy a Grade 2, and the Ashland's $500,000 purse is more than twice the $200,000 of the Fantasy. The spacing between the Ashland and the April 30 Kentucky Oaks is also alluring to McAnally.

The Ashland, however, is expected to be a decidedly tougher race than the Fantasy. McAnally said he decided to go to the Ashland because of the race's Grade 1 status and his hope that the time is right to take on both Halfbridled, who suffered her first career loss last time in the Santa Anita Oaks, and Madcap Escapade, who has yet to race around two turns.

House of Fortune worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 on Sunday at Santa Anita. She was a 17-length winner of a minor stakes race at Golden Gate Fields in her last start.

Candy Ride making progress

McAnally sent another of his stable stars, Candy Ride, out for a half-mile drill in 48.40 seconds Saturday. Candy Ride has not raced since his victory last August in Del Mar's Pacific Classic.

"He looks marvelous," McAnally said. "If he looks as good when he's ready to run as he does now, I'll be very happy. His coat is shiny and bright, and his feet look good."

McAnally has cited Candy's Ride's feet as the reason he gave him an extended break last fall.

Santa Anita Derby contenders work

Lion Heart, who finished second in the San Rafael Stakes earlier this month, on Monday had his final serious work for the April 3 Santa Anita Derby when he traveled one mile in 1:42.20 at Santa Anita. Trainer Patrick Biancone has scheduled a shorter work next week.

Lion Heart won all three of his starts last year, including the Hollywood Futurity.

Quintons Gold Rush, who was fourth in the San Rafael, worked six furlongs in 1:14.80 on Monday at Hollywood Park. Trainer Mike Mitchell said Quintons Gold Rush will have his final work for the Santa Anita Derby next Monday.

Rock Hard Ten, who has won both of his starts and will make his stakes debut in the Santa Anita Derby, worked seven furlongs in 1:24.40 on Saturday morning with jockey Gary Stevens. He is trained by Jason Orman.

Others pointing for the Santa Anita Derby include Imperialism, Lucky Pulpit, St Averil, and Wimbledon.

A gift horse who can run

When Majestic Commander was a 3-year-old last year, Baffert had high hopes for him. But he failed to win in five starts against special weight maidens, then lost twice after being dropped into maiden claimers, all between January and May of last year.

Majestic Commander was subsequently injured, and because of his poor race record, owner Jim McIngvale instructed Baffert to give Majestic Commander away. But Baffert's assistant, Jim Barnes, and Barnes's wife, Dana - who is Baffert's top exercise rider - decided they wanted to take a shot and bring Majestic Commander back to the races.

On Wednesday, he returns. Majestic Commander, who has not raced in more than 10 months, is entered in the sixth race. Now a gelding, he is in against straight maidens, including Contribute, a $775,000 yearling purchase whom Baffert trains for Bob and Beverly Lewis. Majestic Commander's owner is now Dana Barnes.

"Mac is the kind of guy who only wants top horses," Baffert said, referring to McIngvale. "Usually, he sells a horse like this or sends it back East. He gave this horse to Jimmy and Dana. They've done all the work. When it looked like this horse was going to make it back, we asked Mac if he wanted back in, but he said 'No, I've still got Wimbledon.'"

Small field for Potrero Grande

Only seven horses were nominated to Sunday's $200,000 Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap, in which Bluesthestandard will try to rebound from a seventh-place finish as the favorite in the March 7 San Carlos Handicap.

Bluesthestandard came back to drill a sizzling five furlongs in 57.40 seconds Sunday at Santa Anita. The time was the best of 64 at the distance and was one of only 10 that was faster than 1:00.

McCann's Mojave, another probable starter in the Potrero Grande, worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds Monday for trainer Leonard Dorfman.

The field for the 6 1/2-furlong Potrero Grande is also expected to include Unfurl the Flag and Watchem Smokey.

* Peace Rules, the New Orleans Handicap winner, worked five furlongs in 1:01 on Sunday at Hollywood Park in preparation for the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 3. His trainer, Bobby Frankel, is also sending Wild Spirit to Oaklawn Park for that day's $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap. Jerry Bailey will ride both horses.

* Ghostzapper, last year's Vosburgh Stakes winner, worked six furlongs in 1:15 on Sunday at Hollywood Park as he prepares for his comeback in the Carter.

* Ten Most Wanted worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Saturday at Hollywood Park for trainer Wally Dollase. The time was the best of 23 at the distance. Ten Most Wanted is scheduled to make his next start in the $250,000 National Jockey Club Handicap at Hawthorne on April 17. Ten Most Wanted won the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne last year.

* Siphonizer, last year's Del Mar Futurity winner, breezed five furlongs in 50.60 seconds Saturday. He has not raced since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, after which he underwent throat surgery.

* Island Fashion, the Santa Anita Handicap runner-up, worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Saturday.