01/25/2005 1:00AM

Filly champ may test males

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Benoit & Associates
According to owner Marty Wygod, the Santa Anita Derby could be part of Sweet Catomine's spring agenda.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The filly Sweet Catomine will be freshened until March before an ambitious campaign that may lead to an April 9 clash against males in the Santa Anita Derby.

Owner-breeder Marty Wygod mapped Sweet Catomine's springtime agenda Monday night in Beverly Hills, where she was named champion juvenile filly of 2004. Wygod said Sweet Catomine will skip the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes on Feb. 12, and aim for the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks on March 13.

Wygod was asked where she would go next. "If she wins the Oaks, probably the Santa Anita Derby."

Of the 25 fillies who have started in the Santa Anita Derby, three have won - Winning Colors in 1988, Silver Spoon in 1959, and Ciencia in 1939. Winning Colors followed her Santa Anita Derby with a wire-to-wire victory in the Kentucky Derby.

Wygod is hopeful Sweet Catomine follows suit. She returned Jan. 16 with a modest victory in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel, which was her first start since winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on Oct. 30. Wygod and trainer Julio Canani believe that by skipping the Las Virgenes, Sweet Catomine will enter spring as a fresh filly.

"We don't want to run her too many times," Wygod said. "The Oaks is 54 days from the Santa Ysabel. To run in the [Las Virgenes] 26 days out, and come back and go in the Oaks, and then the Santa Anita Derby, and then if she's good enough, the Kentucky Derby, is too much. That would not be fair to her. Her next race is the Santa Anita Oaks."

Canani said Sweet Catomine might breeze a half-mile later this week. She resumed galloping on Monday.

"She's doing unbelievable; now she is in orbit," Canani said, adding that a start in the Santa Anita Derby could depend on "if there are no superstars coming up."

The immediate beneficiary to Sweet Catomine skipping the Las Virgenes is Sharp Lisa, who won the Grade 2, seven-furlong Santa Ynez Stakes on Jan. 17 and is aiming for the Las Virgenes. Hot Attraction also is expected to start in the one-mile Las Virgenes. Another top 3-year-old filly, Splendid Blended, has only one recorded half-mile workout since winning the Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 19.

McCann's Mojave had an alibi

McCann's Mojave bled when he finished last as the 8-5 favorite Sunday in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Handicap. Trainer Leonard Dorfman said a post-race examination of McCann's Mojave revealed the bleeding, which he suspects was at least partly responsible for the sprinter's 11 1/4-length defeat.

"We've scoped him several times, and his air passages are always clean," Dorfman said. "But something made him bleed."

McCann's Mojave got hot in the post parade. He tracked the pace for a half-mile, then backed up. It was an uncharacteristic performance for McCann's Mojave, a 5-year-old graded stakes winner who has won 5 of 9 and earned $283,030. Dorfman said no racing plans will be made until after McCann's Mojave's capillaries heal from the bleeding.

License to Run may add blinkers

Trainer Bobby Frankel said License to Run was fine physically after a dull fifth-place finish last Saturday in the Grade 2 San Marcos Handicap. License to Run was favored at 4-5 in the 1 1/2-mile grass race, but backed up on the far turn and failed to respond.

Frankel suspects that License to Run's problems are in his head. The 5-year-old License to Run, a Group 1 winner in Brazil, was "studdish" before the race, Frankel said. Frankel will consider blinkers for the horse's next start.

Castledale on target for Strub

Ten months after a head separated them in the Santa Anita Derby, one-two finishers Castledale and Rock Hard Ten may renew their rivalry Feb. 5 in the Grade 2 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds. Castledale worked an easy half-mile Monday in 49 seconds, and should improve following a terrific fifth-place comeback Jan. 15 in the San Fernando Stakes. It was his first start since he ran 14th in the Kentucky Derby.

"We knew he would be short," trainer Jeff Mullins said, citing poor weather for Castledale's abbreviated work pattern. Mullins said jockey Jose Valdivia "was pretty happy" with the race. Castledale rallied to within 1 1/4 lengths of the lead near the quarter pole, then tired to finish 3 3/4 lengths back.

In addition to Castledale and Rock Hard Ten, Hollywood Derby winner Good Reward may return to California for the Strub. San Fernando winner Minister Eric worked three furlongs Tuesday in 36.80 and is a possibility to join stablemate Rock Hard Ten in the Strub.

Trainer Richard Mandella said Minister Eric's workout "was just the first step. We'll see how bad he wants to run next week. He doesn't have to run, but if he's jumping out of his skin, there's a chance he will run."

Ailing Lewis wants to travel

Trainer Craig Lewis was released from the hospital Monday after temporary paralysis caused by a bulging disk in his back. Lewis was moving slowly Tuesday morning at Clocker's Corner, while contemplating a cross-country flight to Gulfstream Park for the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf.

Lewis said, "I want to go see Valentine Dancer in Florida. The doctor said no, but I have other ideas."

Island Fashion heads Santa Monica

Island Fashion carries high weight of 120 pounds Sunday when she tries to restore her reputation by winning the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap for the second straight year. A series of Grade 1-caliber performances one year ago culminated with a runner-up finish against males in the Santa Anita Handicap, but Island Fashion has failed to earn a 100 Beyer Speed Figures in five successive starts.

The strength of the Santa Monica, a seven-furlong sprint for fillies and mares, depends on where trainer Bob Baffert starts Yearly Report - in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff on Saturday at 1 1/16 miles, or Sunday in the Santa Monica at her preferred seven-furlong distance. Yearly Report was assigned second high weight of 119 pounds in the Santa Monica.

The expected Santa Monica field is Island Fashion, 120; Yearly Report, 119; Tamweel, 118; Elusive Diva, 115; Royally Chosen, 115; Tizakitty, 115; and Resplendency, 114.

Elusive Diva worked five furlongs Tuesday in 59, fastest of 35 works at the distance.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen