01/28/2002 1:00AM

Frankel holds a pair of aces

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Trainer Bobby Frankel's decision to leave Lido Palace in California for Sunday's San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita could give Frankel the favorite in the two major stakes this weekend.

Lido Palace will be a clear favorite in the $250,000 San Antonio Handicap for older horses. On Saturday, Frankel starts top contender Mizzen Mast in the $400,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds.

Mizzen Mast has not started since winning the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26, but that win may have impressed bettors enough to prefer him over Western Pride, the winner of the San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes on Jan. 12.

Either way, Frankel will have a powerful team in preps to the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 2.

Frankel planned to send Lido Palace to the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 9, but could not make satisfactory travel arrangements.

"I would have had to go through Memphis and there was a four-hour delay," Frankel said. "They would have had to take him off the plane. It wasn't the money involved."

The $250,000 San Antonio Handicap will be Lido Palace's first start since he finished eighth in the $2.05 million Japan Cup Dirt on Nov. 24.

"He never got knocked out after that race," Frankel said. "I don't think he ran too hard."

Last fall, Lido Palace won two Grade 1 stakes - the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga and the Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park. His presence in the San Antonio adds intrigue to a race expected to include Bosque Redondo, Euchre, Gander, Irisheyesareflying, and Straight Flush.

On Sunday, Lido Palace worked six furlongs in 1:13. He will be ridden by Jerry Bailey, who was aboard for the 2001 Whitney and Woodward.

Dig For It, trained by Bruce Headley, is unlikely to start. Headley wanted to work the 7-year-old Dig For It on Monday, but the track was closed for workouts due to overnight rains. Third in the 2001 Pacific Classic at Del Mar, Dig For It had not started since finishing 11th in the Japan Cup Dirt.

"He's not racing fit," Headley said. "I needed that work."

Mizzen Mast sharp in prep for Strub

Mizzen Mast, who made his first start on dirt in the Malibu, continues to impress on that surface. Saturday at Hollywood Park, Mizzen Mast left onlookers raving after working six furlongs in 1:12.

"He went really well," Frankel said. "I wanted to go in 1:13, but that was about as slow as my guy could get him to go."

Because the Strub is limited to 4-year-olds and has a lucrative purse, the race typically draws a top field. Mizzen Mast and Western Pride will face Discreet Hero, Fancy As, Giant Gentlemen, I Love Silver Momentum, Orientate, Palmeiro, Scorpion and Western Pride.

Sore foot knocks Wooden Phone out

Wooden Phone has a sore foot that will prevent him from running in the San Antonio, but trainer Bob Baffert said that if Wooden Phone recovers quickly, he might be able to compete in the Grade 1, $500,000 Donn Handicap.

"He's either got a bruise, or something's going to come out of there," Baffert said Monday from his Santa Anita barn. "It's too bad, because he'd been training awesome. We pulled the shoe off the foot. We're soaking the foot."

Baffert said the problem was first noticed and dealt with Sunday, and he noted improvement on Monday. However, a workout was scheduled for Tuesday morning at Santa Anita, and Baffert said he could not make that timetable with Wooden Phone, and thus would not be able to run the horse Saturday.

Baffert said that if Wooden Phone "comes out of it quickly," he could be sent to Florida next week for the Donn. That race has lost two of its marquee names in the past week. Last week, Frankel said he would not send Lido Palace to the Donn, and then on Monday, Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, who had been scheduled to make his next start in the Donn, was retired.

Came Home works before rain hits

A five-furlong workout in 1:01.40 may seem slow by California standards, but trainer Paco Gonzalez was not concerned when Came Home recorded that time on Sunday.

"I couldn't ask for him to be doing better," Gonzalez said.

The winner of the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga last summer, Came Home is the likely favorite in Saturday's $150,000 San Vicente Stakes over seven furlongs. The San Vicente will be his first start since he finished seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last October at Belmont Park.

Gonzalez was going to work on Monday, but moved the work forward because of concerns about the weather. "I wasn't going to take any chances," he said.

Later on Sunday, steady rain fell at Santa Anita.

The San Vicente is a prep to the longer, more important Kentucky Derby preps run later at this meeting. The probables include Expected Program, Jack's Silver, Line Rider, Mighty David, Popular, Royal Moro, Steady Rollin, and Werblin.

Fonz's will skip San Vicente

Fonz's will not start in the San Vicente, according to co-owner and trainer David La Croix.

Unraced since finishing second to Siphonic in the Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 15, Fonz's breezed a half-mile in 49.60 seconds on Saturday, his first work since the Hollywood Futurity.

Fonz's may return for the San Rafael Stakes on March 2 or the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on March 9. "I've got time to give him four more works," La Croix said.

This time, stewards rule in Cerin's favor

Designed for Luck makes his backers sweat every time he finishes first.

In November 2000, Designed for Luck finished first in the Hollywood Derby at 58-1 but was disqualified and placed fifth.

On Saturday, he won a classified allowance race but had to survive an inquiry to keep the win. The stewards reviewed whether Designed for Luck drifted out and bothered El Cielo, who lost by a nose.

The delay made for a few anxious moments for trainer Vladimir Cerin. "I thought, 'Not again,' " Cerin said.

Designed for Luck kept the win, his second consecutive win. Last June, he won an allowance race at Hollywood Park. He was out of training due minor setbacks such as a bruised foot and a shoulder strain, Cerin said.

"He probably improved some more," Cerin said. "I think he beat a strong field."

Cerin said Designed for Luck will be pointed for the $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf at Santa Anita on March 2.

Dancing may be tried on turf

Dancing the upset winner of the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Breeders' Cup Stakes on Monday in her main track debut may make her next start on turf, trainer Jenine Sahadi said.

An Irish import, Dancing may start in the $100,000 La Habra Stakes over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course.

Sahadi said Bella Bella Bella, the winner of the Santa Ysabel Stakes on Jan. 6, is on schedule for the $200,000 Las Virgenes Stakes over a mile on Feb. 10. The Grade 1 Las Virgenes is expected to draw Habibti, You, and Tali'sluckybusride, the first three finishers of the Hollywood Starlet Stakes on Dec. 16.

Strauss new Del Mar chairman

Robert S. Strauss was named chairman of the board of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club on Friday. He replaces John Mabee, who retired in December.

At Friday's meeting, Mabee's wife, Betty, was named to the 10-member board of directors. She becomes the second woman to serve in that capacity in Del Mar's history.

Strauss was formerly the U.S. Ambassador to Russia and chairman of the Democratic National Committee. A member of the Del Mar Board of Directors since 1988, Strauss was elected by a unanimous vote.

* Innit, the winner of the Grade 2 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap last July at Hollywood Park, has resumed training, Ron McAnally said. A 4-year-old, Innit was turned out last fall for three months after developing inflammation in her ankles.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman