02/18/2005 12:00AM

Excessivepleasure aims high


ARCADIA, Calif. - Trainer Doug O'Neill hopes a sprint stakes for California-breds Sunday at Santa Anita provides a launch pad for Excessivepleasure, whose sights are set on a return to Dubai for another crack at a $1 million race there next month.

First up is the $125,000 Sensational Star Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs, and O'Neill and owner Ty Leatherman expect Excessivepleasure to regain top form after falling short in back-to-back routes.

"Ty and I think he's best going one turn, ideally a one-turn mile," O'Neill said, referring to the $1 million Godolphin Mile on March 26, a Dubai race in which Excessivepleasure finished a troubled third last year.

The issue is whether the 5-year-old gelding is still good enough.

"I think he is," O'Neill said, adding that Excessivepleasure is "training great and going as good as ever."

has won five races and more than $1 million, including three derbys at 3 - the Grade 3 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows, the $500,000 WinStar Derby at Sunland Park, and the Grade 3 Indiana Derby at Hoosier in October 2003, which was his last win.

In his most recent start, in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap at 1 1/16 miles, Excessivepleasure battled on a hot pace and faded. Sunday, there will be no conservation of speed. The best horse in the sprint field and 119-pound co-highweight, Excessivepleasure will be favored under jockey Jon Court. A win is expected to result in an invitation to the Godolphin Mile.

A total of 10 older Cal-breds entered the Sensational Star. It is scheduled for 6 1/2 furlongs on turf, but rain was expected to continue through the weekend and is likely to force the race to the main track. Santa Anita racing officials expect seven or eight to start, regardless of the surface, including Excessivepleasure and co-highweight Red Warrior.

was 47-1 when he rallied from last to win the Sunshine Millions Sprint on Jan. 29. At 5, Red Warrior is emerging as a top California-bred sprinter for trainer Juan Garcia. "The thing that surprised me was the price," Garcia said of the $97 win payoff. "The horse is running good, and looking good."

Garcia expects the additional half-furlong of the Sensational Star to benefit the stretch-running Red Warrior, whose successive Beyer Speed Figures in the high 90's are the best of his career. Garrett Gomez rides.

Red Warrior's 13 starts have produced four wins and earnings of $296,520. The rest of the field is , Shadow of Illinois, Grand Appointment, Ride and Shine, Spencer's Magic, McManus, Bilo, and Hemet Thought.