05/22/2002 12:00AM

Gamely attracting tough field


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The presence of Grade 1 winners Astra and Starine has not limited the field for Monday's $500,000 Gamely Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park.

As of Wednesday, seven fillies and mares were probable for the Gamely, run over 1 1/8 miles on turf. All are stakes winners, with victories ranging in prestige from the 2000 Western Australian Derby (won by Old Money) to the Miss America Handicap at Bay Meadows (won by Crazy Ensign last month).

Crazy Ensign is trained by Richard Mandella, and is one of three runners he will have in Grade 1 stakes on Monday. Aside from Crazy Ensign, The Tin Man starts in the $500,000 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile, and Redattore runs in the $750,000 Met Mile at Belmont Park.

Crazy Ensign was a Group 1 winner in Argentina in 2000, but has only one stakes win in this country. She finished second by a head in the Wilshire Handicap here on April 26, a result that Mandella quickly dismissed.

"She was closer [to the pace] than I expected," Mandella said. "I think she's better if she can be farther back and make one run."

Astra, the 123-pound topweight, and Starine (122) will dominate the betting, and will also face Voodoo Dancer, Snow Dance, and Verruma. Snow Dance, a four-time stakes winner, will ensure a fast pace.

"I know it's a tough spot, but it's worth a try," Mandella said. Mandella would have had four starters in Grade 1 races, but is passing Saturday's $200,000 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap with Alexine. He considered the competition too tough and the purse too low.

Instead, Alexine will be pointed for the $300,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 15.

The Milady is expected to include Azeri and Affluent, the first two finishers in the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park last month, as well as Ask Me No Secrets, Cashmina, and Collect Call.

"The purse is the main thing," Mandella said. "We're not going for much money against the best fillies in the country."

Mandella will have a longshot in The Tin Man in the Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile on turf. The Tin Man will make his Grade 1 debut in the Shoemaker, having finished third in the Grade 2 San Francisco Breeders' Cup Handicap in his stakes debut on April 27.

The Shoemaker will be a stern test for The Tin Man, a 4-year-old. The competition includes Casey Griffin, Decarchy, Irish Prize, Ladies Din, Orientate, Special Ring, Thady Quill, and Touch of the Blues.

Millennium Wind retired

Millennium Wind, the winner of the 2001 Blue Grass Stakes, has been retired after suffering a tendon injury in a workout earlier this month, trainer David Hofmans said on Wednesday.

A half-brother to 1999 Kentucky Derby winner Charismatic, the 4-year-old Millennium Wind ends his career with 3 wins in 7 starts and earnings of $769,920. Aside from the Blue Grass Stakes, he won the 2001 Santa Catalina Stakes and finished second in the 2000 Hollywood Futurity (behind Point Given) and 2001 Louisiana Derby.

Owned by David and Jill Heerensperger, Millennium Wind finished 11th in the 2001 Kentucky Derby. At the time, he was fighting a skin disease and tender feet.

Hofmans said a tendon injury that occurred in the Derby resurfaced after the recent workout.

No stud plans have been arranged, Hofmans said.

Nakatani out for two more weeks

Jockey Corey Nakatani, who has not ridden since suffering a head injury in a spill on May 2, will not return to riding for at least two weeks, according to his agent, Bob Meldahl.

Nakatani was hoping to return for this weekend's major stakes, but those plans have been abandoned because of recent bouts of dizziness and headaches. Meldahl said Nakatani has experienced fewer incidents of dizziness in recent days.

Nakatani is expected to return no earlier than June 5, the start of the third condition book of the spring-summer meeting.

"If it all goes right, he'll be back by then," Meldahl said. "It will take him a week to get fit. He's going in the right direction."

Del Mar barns

Del Mar has replaced a 50-year-old barn on its backstretch and has plans to replace one more at the conclusion of the summer race meeting, the track announced earlier this week. Barn LL will be rebuilt by mid-July, when stables begin to assemble at Del Mar for the meeting, which runs from July 24 to Sept. 11. The new barn, made of a prefabricated material of galvanized steel, will have 38 stalls and 16 tack rooms, double the number of available living quarters of the old barn.

The estimated cost of the barn is $400,000. Later this year, barn UU, with 16 stalls and three tack rooms, will be replaced at an estimated cost of $150,000.

Overall, the track is planning $1 million in renovations throughout the facility before the upcoming meeting.

Tracemark possible for Belmont

Tracemark, the runner-up in the Lone Star Derby on May 11, remains a candidate for the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 8, trainer Craig Dollase said.

"I haven't made up my mind yet," Dollase said. "We'll work next week and I'll know more then."

Dollase reported that Tracemark has been galloping this week.