05/07/2003 11:00PM

Derby ride still haunts Flores

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The stretch run of last weekend's Kentucky Derby has become a nightmare for jockey David Flores.

Each time he relives the fourth-place finish by Atswhatimtalknbout, he critiques a ride that fell short of catching Funny Cide, Empire Maker, and Peace Rules.

"I try to keep it out of my head," Flores said on Thursday morning on the Hollywood Park backstretch.

For Flores, and the other connections of Atswhatimtalknbout, the Belmont Stakes on June 7 cannot arrive soon enough. Flores, for one, is anxious for Atswhatimtalknbout to prove that he belongs among the nation's top 3-year-olds. The rider himself is anxious to win his first Triple Crown race.

Between now and then, Flores will be based at Hollywood, where he is expected to be among the leading riders.

Flores last won a riding title in 1999 at Del Mar, but is often among the leaders. At Santa Anita earlier this year, he won 69 races, good enough for second to Patrick Valenzuela, who rode 94 winners.

But the standings are not the only measure of Flores's status. At 35, he has become a senior member of the Southern California jockeys' room, which is undergoing considerable changes.

In the last year, Hall of Fame jockeys Eddie Delahoussaye, Chris McCarron, and Laffit Pincay Jr. have announced their retirements. Among the other Hall of Fame riders in Southern California, Gary Stevens is riding fewer mounts than in past years, and hopes to do more acting. Mike Smith is among the top 10 but has battled injuries in recent weeks. Julie Krone was among the leaders before she suffered back injuries in March that will keep her out until July.

Because of those developments, riders such as Alex Solis, Corey Nakatani, Valenzuela, and Flores have been thrust into the role of everyday leaders in the jockeys' room.

"It's time for us to take over," Flores said. "It could be me, Solis, or Stevens, but he doesn't ride all the time. I'm one of those guys now. It's hard to believe. I'm only 35, but I'm one of the oldest guys now. I can feel it."

A win in the Belmont Stakes would enhance Flores's status, both nationally and locally. He had hoped his first classic win would come last week.

In the Kentucky Derby, Atswhatimtalknbout rallied wide on the final turn to reach contention in mid-stretch.

"It was very frustrating," Flores said. "At the quarter pole I was looking for any little room and that didn't happen until the eighth pole when I got a chance to make a run.

"I was hoping those guys would stop. My horse was running. It looked like they set an easy pace. The race went the way I never thought it would."

Flores anticipated the race would be run at a faster pace that would help closers such as Atswhatimtalknbout.

Atswhatimtalknbout was beaten two lengths.

"It was probably one more stride and I get second," he said. "He galloped out really good. He got more out of that last race than any other."

Through it all, Flores is looking to the future - the Belmont Stakes and beyond.

It was just two years ago that he won his first Breeders' Cup race with the Godolphin-owned Tempera in the Juvenile Fillies. Eoin Harty trained Tempera, and has returned to California with a stable that will employ Flores.

"For Del Mar, he's going to be good," Flores said of Harty. "He will probably run horses here. He's got 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and older horses. He's loaded this year."

Lido Palace will not race again

Lido Palace, a champion in Chile and a multiple Grade 1 stakes winner in the United States in 2001 and 2002, has been retired, owner John Amerman said.

The decision was made earlier this week after Amerman and trainer Bobby Frankel decided that Lido Palace had not sufficiently recovered from an ankle injury that forced him out of training before the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park earlier this year.

"He was training for the Donn Handicap and he wrenched his ankle," Amerman said. "We had it checked out and it was fine. We decided to give him some time off before the summer season. We got him back to the track last week and he was still a little off.

"We looked at each other and said maybe it's time to give him the time off. He has done a lot for us."

A winner of 11 of 23 starts, Lido Palace earned $2,705,865. In Chile, Lido Palace was the champion 2-year-old colt, and followed a year later with titles as horse of the year and champion 3-year-old colt there. In the United States, his stakes wins included the 2001 Whitney Handicap and consecutive runnings of the Woodward Stakes.

Amerman said stud plans are uncertain, but that farms in Florida and Kentucky are possibilities.

Ocean Terrace retired

Ocean Terrace has been retired after tests showed "degenerative changes" in the knees of the 3-year-old stakes winner, said his trainer, Bob Hess Jr.

Hess said Thursday that Ocean Terrace underwent tests earlier this week at the Alamo Pintado Equine Clinic in Los Olivos, Calif. Owned by the Fog City Stable of Bill Bianco and David Shimmon, Ocean Terrace won 3 of 5 starts and $160,400.

"There was not significant injuries, but there was degenerative changes evident in the lower joint of each knee, which has caused Fog City to retire the horse," Hess said. "This is a terrible blow and we feel if he hadn't been injured he would have been a force on the Triple Crown trail."

By Saint Ballado, Ocean Terrace won his first three starts, including the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on March 8. He lost his last two starts, finishing ninth in the Santa Anita Derby and being eased in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 19.

Hess said that stud plans for Ocean Terrace have not been finalized.

Lopez comes back to East Coast

Journeyman rider C.C. Lopez is returning to his former base in the mid-Atlantic region this weekend, a month after he moved to California.

Lopez was scheduled to leave on Friday, and has stakes mounts this weekend at Delaware Park and Belmont Park.

"It's hard to pass up a good paycheck," he said of returning east. "It helps to be among the top two or three riders. I can only imagine how tough it might have been before McCarron, Delahoussaye, Pincay, and Julie [Krone] got hurt or retired. Who knows what the future holds? I may come back in the fall for Oak Tree."

Lopez was winless with four mounts at Santa Anita. He won his second race of the Hollywood Park meeting in Thursday's first race.