04/10/2007 12:00AM

Frankel barn too strong to slump


ARCADIA, Calif. - Last year, Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel went five months between stakes wins in Southern California in the spring and summer.

Considering the prospects he has for major stakes over the next few months, a repeat of that drought is virtually impossible.

Beginning with two stakes this weekend, and continuing through the first month of the Hollywood Park meeting on April 25, Frankel has a strong team to start in stakes races of all values.

This weekend, he runs Neuilly in Saturday's $75,000 Santa Lucia Stakes on the main track and Indian Flare in Sunday's $100,000 Las Cienegas Handicap on the hillside turf course. Indian Flare may be favored.

Later this month, Naughty Rafaela starts in the $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap on April 21.

In the early weeks of the Hollywood Park meeting, Cantabria may start in the $100,000 Hawthorne Handicap on May 6, Notable Guest is a candidate for the $250,000 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap on Mayo12, and Three Valleys is being considered for the $300,000 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile on May 28, the same day that Citronnade may run in the $300,000 Gamely Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Frankel said he will have "about 50 or 60" horses in California this spring and summer, with divisions in Kentucky and New York. He expressed some concern that some of his best horses could be stranded out here, unable to run in allowance races. Frankel's is a stable without the maiden claimers that are far too common on this circuit.

"The thing about leaving a horse out here is whether the race will go," Frankel said.

Last year, Frankel won the San Luis Rey Stakes with King's Drama in late March and did not have another stakes victory until Neuilly won the Adoration Stakes at Del Mar in late August.

Frankel said his stable suffered several injuries on Hollywood Park's turf course last summer. "A lot of horses got hurt," he said. "I'm hoping it's better this year."

Indian Flare has run only once on turf, winning the restricted Flower Girl Handicap on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita on March 3. The race was her sixth win in 15 starts, and second in a stakes. Owned by Juddmonte Farms, Indian Flare, 5, won the Kalookan Queen Handicap on dirt at Santa Anita last December.

"I've thought of running her on the turf for a long time," he said.

Frankel is already having an outstanding meeting at Santa Anita, which opened on Dec. 26. Through Sunday, his barn had won 10 stakes, second only to trainer Doug O'Neill, who had 12. Bob Baffert is a distant third on that list with four.

Vaunt works like he's ready

After two fourth-place finishes in his first two starts in this country, Vaunt, a gelding trained by Dan Hendricks, ran a game third in the Grade 3 Baldwin Stakes on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita last month.

The timing could not have been better. With the emphasis of 3-year-old stakes switching to turf in California for the spring and summer, Vaunt could be a factor in races such as Saturday's $100,000 La Puente Stakes at a mile on turf at Santa Anita.

Hendricks's confidence was helped when Vaunt worked a half-mile in 47.60 seconds at Hollywood Park on Thursday, the fastest of 34 recorded works at the distance.

Hendricks timed Vaunt's final furlong in 11.60 seconds. "He's got a great little run," Hendricks said.

Owned by Angela Gates and Frank Scardino, Vaunt has won 2 of 9 starts. In England last fall, he won two five-furlong races, leaving Hendricks to question whether Vaunt could be effective in longer races.

The loss in the Baldwin did not discourage the trainer, since Vaunt was closing through the stretch.

"We were hoping we could stretch him out," Hendricks said.

Unfortunately for Hendricks, the La Puente field is expected to include Baldwin Stakes winner Desert Code.

"That was a heck of a performance from the winner," Hendricks said. "I hope he's a hill specialist."

The La Puente is not likely to have a large field. The other probable starters are Golden Balls, Shem, Star Inside, Streets Ahead, and Vauquelin.

Whatsthescript, a winner of three turf stakes in the last six months, will not run. He will start in the Crown Royal American Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 4 instead.

Lava Man returns home

Lava Man has settled back into trainer Doug O'Neill's barn at Hollywood Park, with the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on June 30 as a goal. Lava Man has won the last two runnings of the Hollywood Gold Cup, but is coming off a last-of-16 finish in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free at Nad Al Sheba on March 31.

Lava Man is walking daily, and will be ridden under tack in the next few days, O'Neill said.

"We'll probably start tack walking him within a week until he wants to buck the kid off, and then we'll go back to the track," O'Neill said. "That's what we've been lucky with. We'll let him tell us when he's ready to go back and go from there."

Ryneveld takes over at Fairplex

Paul Ryneveld has joined the Los Angeles County Fair as equine manager, and will oversee the September race meeting at Fairplex Park in Pomona.

Previously, Ryneveld was director of racing at Emerald Downs in Washington. He joined Fairplex Park's staff in late March.

The 2007 Fairplex Park meeting will run Sept. 7-24.

Ryneveld replaces George Bradvica, who has accepted a management position at the simulcast betting outlet at Del Mar.

Gregson dinner coming up

The Edwin Gregson Foundation will hold its annual benefit dinner on April 23, honoring the contributions to racing of Del Mar president Joe Harper and his wife, Barbara.

The event is at the Twin Palms restaurant in Pasadena at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $200.

The Gregson Foundation provides college scholarships to the children of backstretch employees. For further information, contact Angie Carmona at (626) 447-2339.