02/14/2006 1:00AM

Frankel has new face for Big Cap

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Ellis Park
Dream of Summer, here winning the Gardenia Stakes in August, will be pointed toward the Santa Margarita Handicap on March 11.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Marenostrum, winner of a first-condition allowance in his Jan. 7 comeback, will attempt an unlikely class leap March 4, when he runs in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap.

A 1 1/4-mile race, the Big Cap "is not coming up all that tough," said Bobby Frankel, who trains Marenostrum. Frankel also trains High Limit, who won the Strub on Feb. 4 and is the early favorite for the Big Cap, but otherwise the field is modest. Why not take a shot?

Frankel notes that in his Jan. 7 win, Marenostrum beat Top This and That, who came back to finish second in the Strub. Victor Espinoza will ride Marenostrum in the Big Cap; Pat Valenzuela is the regular rider for High Limit. Marenostrum has won 2 of 5 and was second in the Grade 2 UAE Derby last March.

Giacomo is expected to improve in the Big Cap after finishing third, beaten five lengths, in the Strub. The Strub was his first start since the Belmont Stakes.

Giacomo worked five furlongs Tuesday at Hollywood Park in 1:01.40, breezing. Trainer John Shirreffs said Giacomo worked alone after the 9 a.m. break.

"It was a maintenance work, but he finished very strongly," Shirreffs said.

Two and a half weeks out, the Big Cap has nine probable starters. In order of approximate odds, the expected starters are High Limit, Giacomo, Spellbinder, With Distinction, Wilko, Lava Man, Texcess, Top This and That, and Marenostrum.

Diplomat Lady's flop a mystery

Diplomat Lady is undergoing tests this week after a puzzling fifth-place finish Saturday in the Grade 1 .

"There is nothing visible, nothing concrete," said trainer Chris Paasch, adding that jockey Tyler Baze told him Diplomat Lady "never even tried" in the Las Virgenes. It was Diplomat Lady's first start since she pulled a 39-1 upset over Balance on Dec. 18 in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet.

The dubious status of Diplomat Lady has Paasch and owner Charles Cono looking forward to the comeback of Grade 1-placed Mystery Girl. Runner-up to Wild Fit last summer in the Del Mar Debutante, Mystery Girl has been off since October after a lesion was discovered in her throat. The problem was corrected with medication, and Mystery Girl had her first comeback breeze last week. Paasch said he expects Mystery Girl to return in late March.

Meanwhile, the 3-year-old filly division in Southern California is beginning to look a lot like a two-horse race between Balance and Wild Fit, who dominated the Las Virgenes field on Sunday. Folklore remains on hold, and Sweet Belle earned an 80 Beyer Speed Figure in an allowance win last week, which suggests she will be overmatched in the Oaks. Trainer Patrick Biancone said Sabatini, third in the Hollywood Starlet and second in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel, has shipped to Turfway Park, where she is being pointed for the Grade 3 Bourbonette Breeders' Cup on March 25.

$8 million yearling has a name

The most expensive yearling of 2004 - purchased for $8 million - is nearing his debut for trainer Bob Baffert, and let there be no doubt to the identity of the owner. The 3-year-old son of Storm Cat, a half-brother to A.P. Indy and Summer Squall, has finally been named by owner Fusao Sekiguchi. The colt's name is Mr. Sekiguchi.

"He's fast," Baffert said of Mr. Sekiguchi. "It's going to take him a couple races to come around."

Mr. Sekiguchi worked five furlongs from the gate on Monday; his time of 59 seconds was the fastest of the morning. Baffert said Mr. Sekiguchi reminds him of Forestry, who also was sired by Storm Cat.

"With Forestry, finally the light came on," said Baffert. "He became a good horse and reeled off five in a row."

When Mr. Sekiguchi was purchased at the Keeneland September sale, he was the fourth most expensive yearling in history.

Dream of Summer still going

Dream of Summer is not finished. To emphasize the point, she sizzled a half-mile Saturday in 46.80, the fastest half-mile workout of the morning. A 7-year-old trained by Juan Garica and owned by breeder Jim Weigel, Dream of Summer was beaten more than 13 lengths in the $500,000 Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park, after which there was speculation she would be retired.

"She got so nervous [at Gulfstream] she was sweating every single day," said assistant trainer Victor Garcia.

Dream of Summer, who won the Grade 1 Apple Blossom last spring at Oaklawn Park, will be pointed toward the Santa Margarita Handicap on March 11. She finished second by a nose in the Santa Margarita last year. A California-bred, Dream of Summer has won 10 races and more than $1.3 million from 19 starts.

Baffert says he used wrong strategy

Bob Baffert is shouldering blame for the fourth-place finish by Pussycat Doll on Saturday in the Grade 2 .

"I didn't do enough with her after her last race, because she ran so hard," Baffert said, adding that the instructions he gave to jockey Garrett Gomez backfired. Baffert told Gomez to keep Pussycat Doll close to the pace in the La Canada. "I should have just let him ride Gomez-style. It's my fault."

In her previous start, Pussycat Doll won the Grade 1 La Brea at seven furlongs with a 112 Beyer. Baffert did not say where she would run next, but it is doubtful she would run in the Santa Margarita.

Paddy's Daisy retired at 4

Grade 3 winner has been retired and will be bred this spring to Fusaichi Pegasus, according to trainer Patrick Biancone. Paddy's Daisy finished fifth in the La Canada Stakes on Sunday, but retirement was being considered even before the race.

Paddy's Daisy, owned and bred by Stonehaven Farm, won the Miesque Stakes as a 2-year-old in 2004. She retires with 5 wins from 14 starts and earnings of $267,548.