01/15/2002 12:00AM

Cottonwood Cowboy in route again

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Siphonic is not the only problem Cottonwood Cowboy confronts Saturday in the Grade 3 Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita. In addition to facing the country's leading 3-year-old, Cottonwood Cowboy will try to prove in the 1 1/16-mile race that he is more than just one-turn horse.

Cottonwood Cowboy enters the Santa Catalina following two impressive sprint wins at Hollywood Park, but his only route - a flat fourth-place finish - might lead handicappers to infer the Meadowlake colt is strictly a sprinter.

"I would have agreed with that after his second start," said his trainer, Chris Paasch, "but this is a horse that was really slow developing. He was just a bored 2-year-old who didn't have his mind on running. He's got the body, but his brain hadn't caught up with him yet."

Paasch said Cottonwood Cowboy has "quit with all the childish stuff," and enters the Santa Catalina without an alibi. "He's dead fit, so he should have no excuses. He's got plenty of wind in him." Cottonwood Cowboy's win Dec. 1 in a 7 1/2-furlong sprint at Hollywood was flattered when runner-up Danthebluegrassman returned to win two stakes at Golden Gate Fields, including the Grade 3 Golden Gate Derby on Saturday.

Paasch's top 3-year-old, Del Mar Futurity runner-up Kamsack, will resume training Feb. 1. Kamsack has been off since chipping a knee Oct. 6 in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. In the Santa Catalina, Cottonwood Cowboy and Siphonic head a small field expected to include Labamta Babe, Kedington, and National Park.

Earl of Danby ailing

While his longshot Kedington is forced into the Santa Catalina because of a lack of alternatives, trainer Paco Gonzalez's main Derby prospect is battling a sickness that threatens to compromise his winter campaign. Earl of Danby has missed 10 days of training since winning the California Breeders' Champion Stakes on Dec. 28, and came down with a temperature Monday night for the second time since he raced.

Earl of Danby got sick four days after the Cal Breeders', when his temperature went to 101.2 for four days, during which time he did not train. After recovering, he walked and jogged for nearly a week, then finally resumed galloping early this week. Unfortunately, his temperature went to 102 on Monday night.

"There's nothing I can do," Gonzalez said Tuesday. "Right now, he's fine, his blood is perfect, so I don't know. We've already lost about 10 days. It's too bad because longer races will be better for him, and he's a late May foal," and likely to improve. Earl of Danby won his six-furlong debut with a Beyer Speed Figure of 79, and earned an 83 in the seven-furlong Cal Breeders'.

Gonzalez said Kedington, winner of a modest California-bred maiden race Dec. 7, will go in the Santa Catalina if the race attracts a small field as expected. As for Hopeful winner Came Home, he remains on target for the seven-furlong San Vicente on Feb. 2. Came Home was scheduled to work six furlongs Wednesday.

Headley confident of Royally Chosen

Royally Chosen's odds will be shorter, and the distance longer, when she stretches out Sunday in the Grade 2 El Encino Stakes for 4-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles. On Dec. 29 in the seven-furlong La Brea Stakes, 48-1 shot Royally Chosen set suicidal fractions of 21.92 and 44.27 seconds, put away two other front-runners, only to be nailed by Affluent.

One could argue that in the La Brea, Royally Chosen ran at least as well as Affluent, who rallied from 14 lengths behind. The La Brea, however, might also have been more taxing on Royally Chosen than it was on the winner. Both were starting for the first time in 10 weeks, and are wheeling back in three weeks for the El Encino.

"When you have a foundation for a big race, you have less chance for a bounce," Royally Chosen's trainer, Bruce Headley, said. "And she was prepared for a big race. She had a 1:11; a 1:27; a 1:25. When they are prepared for a hard race, the bounce is not automatic." If Royally Chosen's seven-furlong workout Tuesday was an accurate barometer, she is ready for another smasher.

Working in darkness at 4:45 a.m., the California-bred filly worked in 1:26.40 over a track that did not produce fast times. "I was looking for a 1:28, but she did it so easy," Headley said. Royally Chosen is 2 for 2 around two turns. In addition to Affluent and Royally Chosen, the El Encino field is expected to include Graceful Cat, Love At Noon, and Sea Reel.

Extra yardage a question

Rich Musique may or may not be able to stay seven furlongs. However, her participation Monday in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez for 3-year-old fillies, however, will make things tough on likely favorite Ayanna, whose only loss in five sprints was to Habibti. A field of about seven is taking shape for the Santa Ynez, and while Ayanna already has proven she can stay seven furlongs, Rich Musique was tiring Dec. 31 in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance she won by a diminishing half-length.

"Yes, I am concerned about the distance," her trainer, Vladimir Cerin, admitted. "But she's a serious horse, a fast horse." The Santa Ynez will be Rich Musique's third race in five weeks. Too much? "It's not too much. She's a big, powerful filly and she loves to train and she loves to race," Cerin said.

In addition to Ayanna and Rich Musique, the Santa Ynez field may including Candor, My Aim Is True, No Turbulence, Reine de Chateau, and Twice as Golden. The Monday card concludes a six-day racing week. There will be no racing Tuesday or Wednesday, with a four-day week racing resuming on Thursday.