12/27/2002 1:00AM

Decarchy tries new rider

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ARCADIA, Calif. - It ended ugly for the team of trainer Bobby Frankel and jockey Kent Desormeaux. After they had a run of luck in 2002 that included $3.8 million in earnings, a 25 percent win rate, and 28 wins from 110 starts, a nightmare trip by Decarchy in the Grade 2 Citation Handicap Nov. 30 was the final straw.

Frankel blamed Desormeaux for the loss - Decarchy finished fourth in the $500,000 race - and fired the jockey. "I thought he couldn't lose, I thought [Desormeaux] could have laid up a little closer," Frankel said. "We haven't been lucky."

Decarchy switches riders Sunday and is the best Frankel entrant - and likely favorite - in the Grade 2 San Gabriel Handicap at Santa Anita. This time Jerry Bailey will ride him. Frankel-trained Blue Steller will be ridden by Pat Valenzuela. Desormeaux does not ride the 1 1/8-mile turf race, which drew 11 entrants. Frankel-trained Sumitas was entered for the main track only.

Decarchy, a Grade 2 winner, is better now than he was last year, Frankel said. The trainer's confidence does not mean Decarchy is a lock, for two reasons - distance and competition. Nine furlongs is stretching Decarchy's distance limitations, and Blue Steller is greatly improved since Valenzuela started riding him four starts back. The field also includes graded stakes winners Night Patrol, Grammarian, David Copperfield, Seinne, and White Heart. A potential upsetter is Investor's Dream.

An import from Brazil, Investor's Dream tore off a chunk of his foot in the San Diego Handicap in summer, and was not cranked up for his Nov. 30 comeback in which he was defeated by only four lengths.

"We've livened him up a little bit since then; I think he'll be a sharper horse," trainer Richard Mandella said. "He might be a pretty good horse."

The Frankel-Desormeaux momentum stalled in late summer, when they went 1 for 19 from mid-August to late November. When Decarchy was defeated in the Citation, Frankel vocalized his displeasure and said Desormeaux was on a one-year "suspension" from the barn. Desormeaux has not ridden for Frankel since.

Frankel said Friday, "I'll get back to [Desormeaux] again."

"I can't blame him," Desormeaux said. "When you're not getting lucky, you go where the luck is. But we'll dance again. Bobby's got champion horses, and I fit them well. The [25 percent win rate] is a good indication of the rides he gives me. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time [with Decarchy]."