01/07/2005 12:00AM

Flores hoping to change luck

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ARCADIA, Calif. - It may rain on the rest of Southern California on Sunday, but David Flores will be feeling like the sun is on his back when he climbs aboard Sweet Catomine for the $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita.

Flores has been in a slump in the first two weeks of the meeting, winning just one race from 35 starters through Thursday. Sweet Catomine, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in October, represents Flores's ideal slump-breaker, a hugely talented filly facing a modest field. None of the other six runners in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel over 1 1/16 miles are stakes winners.

Flores gained the mount after Corey Nakatani was suspended for 30 days for causing interference in a turf race last March. Nakatani exhausted his appeals in the fall and will not ride until early February.

Flores was chosen as a replacement by Marty Wygod, who owns Sweet Catomine. Flores was aboard Sweet Catomine in her career debut last July at Del Mar, a second in a maiden race over 5 1/2 furlongs.

"Even then it was obvious she wanted to go the distance," Flores said. "She got a little experience from that."

Flores lost the ride on Sweet Catomine when he rode Proposed for Wygod in the Del Mar Debutante last August. Proposed finished seventh in that race. She was considered the stronger half of the entry at the time. Sweet Catomine later won the Grade 2 Oak Leaf Stakes before she won the Juvenile Fillies, both with Nakatani aboard.

"It was one of those things," Flores said. "I ended up on the wrong horse."

Flores, 35, said earlier this week that he has not been discouraged by the slump. Last year, he finished eighth in the standings of the winter-spring meeting with 34 wins.

Flores is hoping for drier weather, not only for main track conditions to improve, but also to get back on the turf course, which has not been used since Dec. 27.

"The weather is not a help," Flores said. "The horses I've been riding haven't liked it. I feel in good shape, and the horses have been trying. We just need good weather."

So Long Birdie to get stakes start

It may have seemed odd that So Long Birdie was purchased for $20,000 at the 2003 Keeneland September yearling sale, four months after his half-sister Bird Town won the 2003 Kentucky Oaks.

Trainer Craig Dollase began to figure out the puzzle when he saw So Long Birdie available in a $40,000 claiming race for maidens at Hollywood Park last May, eight months after the sale.

"He has some conformation issues," Dollase said. "That's why we got him so cheap."

On behalf of the Alaska's Great Eagle partnership, Dollase claimed So Long Birdie for $40,000 from trainer Caesar Dominguez's stable.

Nine months later, Dollase and the partnership have a colt who is bound for his first stakes in Sunday's $100,000 San Miguel.

So Long Birdie has started only once since he was claimed, winning a maiden race at 5 1/2 furlongs by

11 lengths at Hollywood Park last month. Dollase had given So Long Birdie the summer off before he was put back in training.

The colt's pedigree has been further enhanced by events of the last year. So Long Birdie is 3; his 4-year-old half-brother is Birdstone, the winner of the 2004 Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes who has since been sent to stud.

Dollase is taking his typical cautious approach toward So Long Birdie's stakes debut. He knows the colt is quick, but is worried about an off track and keeping the colt sound.

"We'll see how he likes the slop," Dollase said. "He does have his infirmities. He's fresh."

Dominguez said he is not concerned about letting a half-brother to two classic winners out of his barn. He considers it to be a good investment that the partnership that owned the colt at the start of his career doubled its money.

"I bought him for $20,000 and sold him for $40,000, that's not bad," Dominguez said. "I never let spilled milk bother me. The one that should be furious are the people that sold him for $20,000."

Special Ring considers Dubai try

Special Ring, the multiple stakes-winning turf miler, may make his 2005 debut in the $2 million Dubai Duty Free Stakes in the Middle East on March 26, trainer Julio Canani said.

Special Ring, 8, made only three starts in 2004. After winning the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf at Del Mar in July, he finished 13th in the Breeders' Cup Mile, and then last of 10 in the Citation Handicap in November.

The losses have not discouraged Canani from considering the Dubai Duty Free, which is run over about 1 1/8 miles on turf. Owned by Prestonwood Farm, Special Ring has won 10 of 28 starts and $915,023.

"His first race back is always his best race," Canani said. "He's out at the farm for a month. I can't do anything in this rain anyway."

Win a big day at the races

Santa Anita is conducting an auction on eBay.com for a unique day at the races on March 5, Santa Anita Handicap Day. The proceeds of the auction will be dedicated to a relief fund for victims of the recent Asian tsunami.

The day at the races will include lunch in the director's room, a trip to the winner's circle for the Santa Anita Handicap, and a tour of the racetrack from Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron, Santa Anita's vice president for industry relations.

The auction, which ends on Jan. 15, started with a bid of $250. As of early afternoon on Friday, the bidding had reached $1,225.

- Frank Stronach, the chief executive of Magna Entertainment, Santa Anita's parent company, said in late December that his auto parts

company, Magna International, would donate $100,000 to the Canadian Red Cross for tsunami relief.

- Stacy Young, 33, who has eight horses in training at Hollywood Park, scored the first win of her career with Lunar Dream ($10) in Wednesday's third race. Young previously worked for trainer Bobby Frankel for three years, as an exercise rider and doing physical therapy on horses.