05/28/2001 11:00PM

Desormeaux to return ahead of schedule

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Kent Desormeaux, who has ridden in Japan for the last two months, said on Tuesday that he plans to return to California on June 24, three weeks before he was originally scheduled to leave Japan.

Desormeaux, who has won two Kentucky Derbies, is booked to ride Astra in the $250,000 Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood Park that day and will not return to Japan following the Grade 1 turf race for fillies and mares.

In April at Santa Anita, Desormeaux won the Santa Barbara Handicap aboard Astra, who is trained by Simon Bray.

"What a homecoming party I think Astra will be," Desormeaux said Tuesday by phone from Japan.

In April, Desormeaux went to Japan on a three-month riding permit. At the time, he said he would return to California for the start of the Del Mar meeting on July 18. He also said he would occasionally return to the United States for major stakes in May and June, but has yet to make an appearance.

Through Monday, Desormeaux had won 17 races in Japan, including the $1.4 million Japanese Oaks at Tokyo Racecourse on May 20. He said he plans to spend the remainder of the time allowed on his work permit riding a major stakes in Japan in the fall.

"My interpreter suggests I save my dates for the big days," he said. "If this had gone any better it would be scary."

Desormeaux said he will ride during the final three weeks at Hollywood Park in preparation for Del Mar.

"I think it works out perfect for Del Mar," he said. "I was afraid to show up at Del Mar the day before the meeting started. Now I've got a chance to say hello and show everyone how fresh I am."

When Desormeaux returns, he will be represented by Tom Knust, the former racing secretary at Santa Anita and Del Mar. Before his departure, Desormeaux was represented by Tony Matos, who now handles mounts for Victor Espinoza and Gary Stevens.

Chapman has another hot item

Caller One, who won the Los Angeles Handicap last Sunday two months after winning the $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai, may not be the best horse in the stable, according to trainer Jim Chapman.

Last weekend, Chapman had a stakes victory each day, starting with Expected Program's score in Saturday's Willard Proctor Stakes for 2-year-olds. Chapman is convinced that Expected Program, who is unbeaten in two starts, may be better than the 4-year-old Caller One.

"He's showed as much as Caller One at this stage," Chapman said. "And this one is not a gelding."

Expected Program blew the turn in his career debut, and still won after rallying through the stretch. He displayed no such tendency last weekend. Chapman said Expected Program will reappear in the $75,000 Haggin Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs on June 17.

"He won with something left," Chapman said. "He just has so much natural speed. Racing will help that."

Chapman thinks he has a deep crop of 2-year-olds. He is tipping Wild Success, a Forest Wildcat colt, as one to follow. Wild Success may start as soon as this weekend.

Chapman is uncertain where Caller One will resurface. The obvious goal is the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Belmont Park on Oct. 27, a race in which Caller One was fourth last year.

"He'll run a couple of more times," Chapman said. "It's just a matter of who treats us right in the weights."

Two Herrick horses test positive

The California Horse Racing Board has announced that two horses trained by Joe Herrick tested positive for prohibited medications last December at Hollywood Park.

Phone Love, the winner of the sixth race on Dec. 20, tested positive for Meprobamate, an anti-anxiety medication used to treat muscle spasms that is prohibited to appear in postrace tests. It's Factual, who finished sixth in the first race on Dec. 10, tested positive for Meproba-mate and Carisoprodol, a muscle relaxant.

Meprobamate is a class 2 drug. Positive tests for drugs in classes 1-3 are subject to a possible redistribution of purses following a hearing. Phone Love won a $19,000 race over 6 1/2 furlongs for maiden claimers, earning $11,400.

The results of the initial urine tests at the University of California-Davis were confirmed by the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in College Station, Texas.

Hearings are tentatively scheduled before Del Mar stewards on Aug. 8.