11/24/2005 1:00AM

Giacomo works toward return

Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo is gearing up for a start in January.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo is getting closer to a comeback.

Wednesday at Hollywood Park, Giacomo breezed a half-mile in 49.20 seconds, his first recorded workout since returning to training in late summer following surgery in June to remove bone chips from an ankle and knee.

Last week, Giacomo breezed three furlongs, but the workout - in approximately 41 seconds - was not given an official time.

Wednesday's workout was the first serious exercise designed to have Giacomo ready for a return to racing at Santa Anita in January, according to his trainer, John Shirreffs.

"He seemed to handle it pretty well," Shirreffs said. "He galloped a long time before I worked him."

With that foundation, Shirreffs did not hesitate to give Giacomo a half-mile workout on Wednesday. Shirreffs said that a half-mile workout was not as rigorous as a three-furlong work for the colt, considering the 1 1/8-mile circumference of the Hollywood Park dirt track.

"A half-mile is sometimes easier because they settle before they hit the turn. When they go three furlongs, they break off and the turn is right there," he said.

Shirreffs is pointing Giacomo to the San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 14 with the hope of getting a two-turn prep race in advance. Other goals for the Santa Anita meeting are the $300,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds on Feb. 4 and the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 4.

Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Giacomo has not started since finishing seventh in the Belmont Stakes in June. He emerged from that race with bone chips. A winner of 2 of 10 starts and $1,966,316, Giacomo pulled a 50-1 upset in the Kentucky Derby, his lone stakes win.

Don't Get Mad's people part ways

Owner B. Wayne Hughes and trainer Ron Ellis, who teamed to finish fourth with Don't Get Mad in the Kentucky Derby this year, have parted ways.

Ellis informed Hughes earlier this week that he was resigning as his trainer. Ellis had three horses for Hughes at the time.

"Wayne has an idea where he wants his program to go and I didn't feel like I was a big enough part of that," Ellis said. "I felt it was time to move on.

"I'm very grateful and proud of the success we had together. I guess we're going in different directions. It was pretty simple."

Hughes, a breeder and a prominent buyer of yearlings, has horses with several trainers throughout the nation, including Bob Baffert, Richard Mandella, Paul McGee, and Al Stall Jr.

Hughes said that Don't Get Mad recently underwent surgery to have a bone chip removed. The colt is expected to be out until the spring. Hughes did not say who would train the horse next year.

"I don't have a plan," he said. "I'd like to keep him in California. It's my understanding [the surgery] went well. There was no damage."

Hughes said two horses previously trained by Ellis have been turned over to other trainers - Turnbolt to Mandella and Homecoming to Stall. He did not comment on Ellis's resignation.

A.P. Warrior bides time until Futurity

A.P. Warrior, one of the top 2-year-olds in California this year, would have been an ideal candidate for Saturday's Real Quiet Stakes. Instead, owner Stan Fulton and trainer Eoin Harty are pointing A.P. Warrior for the $200,000 Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 17.

Harty said the proximity of the Real Quiet to the Hollywood Futurity was partly the reason A.P. Warrior passed.

"I don't want him to do too much," Harty said. "I didn't want to come back after two weeks."

Thursday at Santa Anita, A.P. Warrior worked five furlongs in 59.80 seconds, the sixth fastest of 20 recorded works at the distance.

In his last start, A.P. Warrior won an allowance race at Santa Anita on Nov. 4. He was second in the Norfolk Stakes in October.

The Grade 1 Futurity is the last major stakes for 2-year-olds of the year.

Evening Escort adds blinkers

Evening Escort will wear blinkers when she attempts to win her first stakes in Sunday's $100,000 Sharp Cat Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

Trained by Doug O'Neill, Evening Escort finished fourth in the Grade 2 Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 1, her first start for O'Neill and owner Paul Reddam. Evening Escort was purchased privately after winning a maiden race over 5 1/2 furlongs at Emerald Downs in Washington on Sept. 17.

O'Neill took the blame for the loss in the Oak Leaf. "She had just gotten off the van," he said. "In her defense, she didn't have a lot of conditioning going into the race."

Evening Escort has never worn blinkers. "We think that will help as well," O'Neill said.

Evening Escort will face a small field in the Sharp Cat Stakes at 1 1/6 miles. The race is a prep to the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes on Dec. 18.