04/16/2004 12:00AM

Don't count out Ringaskiddy

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Ringaskiddy scored a 10-1 upset in the 2002 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap, becoming the first California-bred in 29 years to win the marathon turf race.

Despite a tendon injury that threatened his racing career last year and prevented a chance for a title defense, Ringaskiddy returns in Sunday's San Juan Capistrano. He is the lone California-bred in the field of nine.

Trainer and co-owner Juan Garcia is predicting victory for Ringaskiddy, an 8-year-old gelding whom he claimed with co-owner Leonard Scofield for $50,000 in January 2001.

"I think if he runs his race, he should beat this group," Garcia said.

Ringaskiddy has had a sketchy record since the 2002 San Juan Capistrano. After two losses at Hollywood Park in the spring and summer of 2002, Ringaskiddy was turned out at Garcia's ranch in Tijuana, Mexico. "He got a little sour," Garcia said.

Ringaskiddy returned to training in the winter of 2003, and the tendon injury occurred just before he was ready to resume racing.

"He had a swollen tendon," Garcia said. "I didn't want to take any chances. We sent him to the ranch and brought him back for this race."

The San Juan Capistrano will be Ringaskiddy's fourth start of 2004. He was seventh in a one-mile allowance race on Jan. 1, seventh in an optional claimer on Feb. 20, but a fast-closing third in the Crystal Water Handicap against statebreds March 13.

Since being claimed, Ringaskiddy has earned $439,946. Bred by Robert and Barbara Walter, Ringaskiddy is by Slewvescent out of Halo at Dawn.

The 2002 San Juan Capistrano was the richest win for Garcia and Scofield. The race was worth $400,000 that year, but now carries a purse of $250,000.

Still, a win by Ringaskiddy would complete a remarkable comeback, and give him a Grade 2 stakes win in his 51st career start.

Statebred stars skipping Gold Rush

The $1.31 million California Gold Rush program for statebreds at Hollywood Park next Saturday has lost several major players to stakes at Churchill Downs on April 30 and May 1.

Graded stakes winners Bear Fan, House of Fortune, McMann's Mojave, and Silent Sighs are nominated to Gold Rush stakes, but are being pointed for races at Churchill Downs.

The richest race on Gold Rush Day is the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles. O.K. Mikie, the winner of the Golden State Mile in February, makes his first start in Southern California against Cee Mister B, Cheiron, and Don'tsellmeshort, a multiple stakes winner.

Yearly Report, the winner of the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Breeders' Cup Stakes in January, heads a small field in the $200,000 Melair Stakes for 3-year-old fillies over 1 1/16 miles.

The 10-race program also features four $150,000 races, two $70,000 allowance races, and two $60,000 races for maidens.

Valentine Dancer, the winner of the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf in January and two other stakes last fall, is a top contender in the $150,000 Fran's Valentine Stakes for fillies and mares over 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Muqtarib's offspring sets record

Muqtarib, a first-year stallion standing at Valley Creek Farm in Valley Center, had his first winner on Thursday when Whatsthenameman scored a two-length win in a two-furlong race for 2-year-olds.

Whatsthenameman, who races for breeders Exotic Soup Stables, set a track record of 21.09 seconds.

By Gone West, Muqtarib, 8, is out of Shicklah, a champion in Germany.

Muqtarib has been booked to 53 mares this year, according to Leigh Ann Howard, the general manager at Valley Creek Farm. "Each year, we've had more interest," she said.

Muqtarib stands for $3,500, live foal.