10/04/2007 11:00PM

Flores on top, with 5 Cup prospects

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - Fighting for the lead in the jockey standings at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting is new territory for veteran rider David Flores.

Despite being a fixture in Southern California since the late 1980s, Flores, 39, has won just one riding title at the Oak Tree meeting, in 1999. He has finished in the first five in the standings only once since then, when third behind Laffit Pincay Jr. in 2002.

This fall, Flores is off to an excellent start, trailing Victor Espinoza by one, 9-8, through Thursday.

"I'm riding more horses and that makes a difference," he said. "I've been working the same."

Flores admits the absences of top riders Michael Baze and Joe Talamo because of suspension in the first few days of the meeting has helped a lot, and he wants to stay busy through the end of the meeting on Nov. 4.

He will be gone for at least two days at the end of the month for the Breeders' Cup programs at Monmouth Park on Oct. 26-27.

Flores's team includes Awesome Gem for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, Tasha's Miracle in the $2omillion Juvenile Fillies, Salute the Sarge in the $2 million Juvenile, Hystericalady in the $2 million Distaff, and Idiot Proof for the $2 million Sprint.

"I've got a few chances," Flores said.

Sunday, Hystericalady and Idiot Proof have their final preps at Santa Anita. Hystericalady will be heavily favored to win the $250,000 Lady's Secret Stakes for fillies and mares. Idiot Proof starts in the $300,000 Ancient Title Stakes for sprinters.

Hystericalady won the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher BC Handicap by 6 1/4 lengths at Monmouth on Aug. 25, one of the finest performances of her career. She chased Nashoba's Key at Hollywood Park this summer, finishing second in the Milady BC Handicap and third in the Vanity Handicap. To Flores's delight, Nashoba's Key will start in the BC Filly and Mare Turf later this month.

"She got beat by a good filly in Nashoba's Key," Flores said of Hystericalady.

Idiot Proof became a contender for the BC Sprint with a track-record performance in the Jersey Shore BC Stakes at Monmouth on July 4. He returned to finish a dull third in the Real Good Deal Stakes for statebreds at Del Mar on Aug. 10.

Flores is throwing out that result, saying Idiot Proof was uncomfortable on Del Mar's Polytrack synthetic surface. The same concern is not an issue on Santa Anita's Cushion Track synthetic surface, Flores said.

"He handles it way better than Del Mar," Flores said.

Awesome Gem could be Flores's sleeper mount on Breeders' Cup Day. Awesome Gem has been second in his last three starts - the San Diego Handicap, Pacific Classic, and Goodwood Stakes here on Sept. 29, losing the latter race by a nose to Tiago.

Flores thinks that Awesome Gem will be overlooked in the BC Classic, and that the distance of 1 1/4 miles will be a benefit.

"He'll get the distance," Flores said. "He proved that. It will be an interesting race."

Mandella supervising Perfect Drift

Perfect Drift, the winner of more than $4.6 million who started in five consecutive runnings of the BC Classic from 2002-06, was transferred to trainer Richard Mandella's barn last month, but is not in training, Mandella said Friday.

An 8-year-old gelding owned by Stonecrest Farm, Perfect Drift is being given a break on a lay-up farm in California, pending further medical tests. Mandella said that there is concern about the condition of one of Perfect Drift's ankles, which forced the gelding to the sidelines earlier this year.

"We're doing more diagnostics," Mandella said. "We're checking things out before we go forward. We'll take more time before we start him up."

Perfect Drift has been trained by Murray Johnson in Kentucky through a career that includes 11 wins in 46 starts. Third in the 2002 Kentucky Derby, Perfect Drift has won such races as the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap in 2003, the Kentucky Cup Classic in 2003, and the Washington Park Handicap in 2003 and 2005.

Perfect Drift has not started since finishing fifth in an optional claimer at Churchill Downs in July.

Shore Do has a couple of options

Shore Do, the third-place finisher in the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes on Sept. 30, is bound for a Breeders' Cup race.

Now trainer Chuck Peery and the partnership that owns the colt have to choose between the newly created $1 million BC Juvenile Turf over a mile on grass on Oct. 26 or the $2omillion BC Juvenile over 1 1/16 miles on Oct. 27.

In the Norfolk, Shore Do rallied from last in a field of nine to finish three lengths behind Dixie Chatter. He finished 1 3/4 lengths behind runner-up Salute the Sarge. The Norfolk was Shore Do's stakes debut. Shore Do won a maiden race over a mile on turf at Del Mar on Aug. 22.

"He came out of the race great," Peery said of the Norfolk. "We'll take a swing at one of the two races. We'll pre-enter in both and see if we can get in the Juvenile. We'll see how that group is setting up."

Owned by Mike Connors, Jim Hawkins, and Kevin and Terry Jacobson, Shore Do would be Peery's first starter in the Breeders' Cup.

The first three finishers of the Norfolk are bound for the Breeders' Cup. Dixie Chatter has recovered from a grabbed quarter suffered in the race, trainer Richard Mandella said.

Fourth-place finisher Beresford is more likely to be pointed for the $100,000 Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park on Nov. 18, trainer Dan Hendricks said. He has not ruled out the BC Juvenile, but is concerned that Beresford may not gain a berth in the field.

"It'd be hard to get into the race," he said of the BC Juvenile.

Hendricks said that the $750,000 CashCall Futurity on Dec. 22 is a long-term goal for Beresford.