08/30/2004 12:00AM

Futurity back on the table for Roman Ruler

Benoit & Associates
Sweet Catomine, under Victor Espinoza, is no longer a maiden after winning the Debutante.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Roman Ruler, the unbeaten leader of the 2-year-old male division in California, worked a half-mile in 46 seconds on Sunday and now may start in the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 8.

The workout, the second-fastest of 41 timed works at the distance, was Roman Ruler's first since a win in the Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 15, his stakes debut.

Trainer Bob Baffert timed Roman Ruler galloping out five furlongs in 58.40 seconds on Sunday.

"He was doing it easy," Baffert said. "He's a tremendous horse. I don't have to do much with him. He's such an athlete."

Owned by Fog City Stable, Roman Ruler has run twice, having beaten maidens at Hollywood Park in June.

In the days after the Best Pal, Baffert said he wanted to start Roman Ruler around two turns for his third start, but backed away from that position on Sunday. The seven-furlong Del Mar Futurity, a race that Baffert won a record seven consecutive times from 1996-2002, is back in the picture.

There is still a chance that Roman Ruler could bypass the Del Mar Futurity and start in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile over 1 1/16 miles at Turfway Park on Sept. 18 as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Lone Star on Oct. 30.

Another plan would include a start in the Del Mar Futurity, then in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland or the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 9.

But, said Baffert, "I don't want to ship too much."

Sweet Catomine wins maiden in big way

While there is no doubt that Roman Ruler is a top-class 2-year-old, the same cannot be said of the California-based 2-year-old fillies.

Saturday, the maiden Sweet Catomine won the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante, overcoming a bad start to win by three-quarters of a length over two-time stakes winner Souvenir Gift.

The field of nine did not include Inspiring, the Baffert-trained winner of the Sorrento Stakes on Aug. 7, who is sidelined with tender shins.

Sweet Catomine is well bred (Storm Cat-Sweet Life, by Kris S.), but her performance in the Debutante came against a lackluster field. Second in her only previous start, Sweet Catomine finished seven furlongs in 1:24.18, the second-slowest time since the race distance was shortened from a mile in 1993.

Trainer Julio Canani expects Sweet Catomine to improve as the season progresses.

"She's backward, training-wise, because she's so big," he said. "This filly, as a 3-year-old, I think will be real special."

Sweet Catomine was part of a favored entry with Proposed, who is also a maiden. Proposed finished third in a statebred stakes in late July in her debut, and finished seventh in the Debutante.

Owner-breeder Marty Wygod said Sweet Catomine will make her next start in the Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 2, while Proposed will start against statebreds in the $75,000 Cover Gal Stakes on Sept. 29.

Wygod considers both fillies to be candidates for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Special Ring and Bayamo work for Canani

Canani worked two of his top older turf horses on Sunday - Special Ring and Bayamo, who finished first and second in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap on July 25.

Special Ring worked a half-mile on the main track in 49.40 seconds, while Bayamo worked a half-mile on turf in a sharp 47.40.

Special Ring is being pointed for the $250,000 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 9, Canani said. Bayamo is being considered for the $250,000 Clement Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship over 1 1/4 miles at Santa Anita on Oct. 3.

On Wednesday, Agata, one of Canani's recent imports from Europe, makes her U.S. debut in a $58,000 optional claimer for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Agata is a maiden after seven starts but has finished second or third six times, including a third in the Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary in May. She placed in two other stakes in France, and was fifth in the French Oaks on June 13.

Agata will be favored even though she is a maiden against winners. She was considered a candidate for the Del Mar Oaks on Aug. 21 but was not entered when Canani said she went off her feed. Canani won the race with the longshot Amorama.

Rock Hard Ten doubtful for BC Classic

Rock Hard Ten, the winner of the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park in July and the beaten favorite in last month's Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, is doubtful for the major stakes of the fall.

Trainer Jason Orman said Rock Hard Ten is walking at co-owner Ernie Moody's farm in San Diego County and will resume training in coming days. Orman said a start in the Breeders' Cup Classic "would be asking a lot."

"We've let him down a little bit," he said. "We'll go back to training him next week."

Rock Hard Ten finished second to Smarty Jones in the Preakness Stakes in May. Orman said the Strub Series for 4-year-olds at Santa Anita in the winter is a long-range goal.

Del Mar Derby runners drill

Fast and Furious, a recent import to trainer Ron McAnally's barn, and Toasted, who finished third in the American Derby at Arlington Park in his last start, both worked on the Del Mar turf course on Monday in preparation for the Grade 2, $400,000 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 6.

Victor Espinoza was aboard Fast and Furious, who went off slowly and finished strongly while traveling seven furlongs in 1:32.20 on the firm course. Orange cones, known as dogs, were placed well out from the rail.

"It's almost like working a mile," McAnally said.

Toasted worked five furlongs on the turf in 1:02.40 for trainer Laura de Seroux.

Blackdoun, the likely favorite for the derby, worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 on the turf on Sunday for Canani.

Summer Wind Dancer back home

Summer Wind Dancer, who had been scheduled to run in Friday's Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga, is back at Del Mar after an aborted trip that ended in Kentucky.

Jeff Mullins, the trainer of Summer Wind Dancer, elected to not send Summer Wind Dancer on to New York after mechanical problems with an airplane delayed the trip while in Kentucky.

"She left Wednesday at 1 a.m. and got back last night," Mullins said Monday morning. "She went to Kentucky for a vacation."

The Personal Ensign's race shape might have benefited Summer Wind Dancer, whose closing charge would have been flattered by the swift early fractions.

"When I watched the replay, I just about puked," Mullins said.

Apprenticeship ends for Ruis

Mick Ruis is no longer an apprentice rider, as his five-pound allowance ended on Sunday. Ruis, a top contender for the Eclipse Award this year as outstanding apprentice, was tied with Mike Smith for eighth place in the Del Mar standings with 11 victories through Sunday. Earlier this year, Ruis was the leading rider at Turf Paradise.

The leading apprentice jockey at this meeting is Alex Bisono, who had won 13 races through Sunday.

* Jockeys Isaias Enriquez and Corey Nakatani have been fined $200 each for an altercation in the jockeys' room after the first race on Friday. The incident forced Nakatani to miss two mounts, but he returned to ride three winners later on Friday's card.

* On Monday morning, veteran stakes sprinter Bluesthestandard whipped through five furlongs in 57.40 seconds for trainer Ted H. West. The time was the best of 59 at the distance.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman