12/26/2005 12:00AM

Gifted youngsters edging toward spotlight


ARCADIA, Calif. - The names might not ring a bell to racing fans this week, but they could become familiar players on the Triple Crown trail.

On Wednesday, that quartet is part of an eight-horse field of 2-year-olds entered in a $52,000 allowance race over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita. The allowance race could produce a few starters for the $150,000 San Rafael Stakes over a mile on Jan. 14, a race expected to attract Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Stevie Wonderboy.

Trainers Bob Baffert and Richard Mandella hope their starters on Wednesday, Wanna Runner and Refinery, respectively, can reach that level.

"We're hoping he keeps moving forward, and that's all you can hope for," Baffert said of Wanna Runner.

Owned by Mike Pegram, Wanna Runner beat maidens in his third start, over 1 1/16 miles, at Hollywood Park on Nov. 25. It was his first race since being gelded earlier in the fall. Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Wanna Runner won the maiden race by a nose.

"I didn't have him as tight as I wanted and he still won," Baffert said. "Going long is what he'll like."

Like Wanna Runner, Refinery made his last start against maidens, winning by 4 1/4 lengths over six furlongs at Hollywood Park on Nov. 26. Wednesday's race will be Refinery's first start around two turns, a point that does not overly concern Mandella.

"I anticipate him handling the difference" in distance, Mandella said.

Owned by B. Wayne Hughes, Refinery was purchased for $425,000 at the Keeneland April 2-year-olds in training sale. He was third in his debut against maidens on this track in November.

"He's a very cooperative horse to train," Mandella said. "He's very sensible in the morning. This is a trial to see if he can step up. We'll find out what we have."

Most of the starters in Wednesday's race have yet to start in a stakes. Kissin Knight was third, but promoted to second, in the Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park on Nov. 26, while Sensational Score was third in the Pinjara Stakes on turf here on Oct. 30.

Sensational Score has yet to start on dirt. Trained by Mike Machowsky, the colt won his debut in a one-mile turf race here on Oct. 10.

Ramsgate will attract plenty of betting support. Trained by Bobby Frankel, Ramsgate beat maidens by 2 1/4 lengths over seven furlongs at Hollywood Park on Nov. 12 in his second career start. Wednesday's race is his debut around two turns.

Wednesday allowance feels like a stakes

The absence of turf racing in Southern California since the end of the Oak Tree meeting on Nov. 6 has given a $65,000 allowance race over a mile on turf on Wednesday the feel of a stakes.

The race, run as the day's sixth, has drawn a field of 12 but will be limited to 10 runners since the inner rail will be set 24 feet from its permanent position.

The race has drawn two stakes winners in 2005 - Capitano and Captain Squire - as well as Fullbridled and We All Love Aleyna, who were stakes placed this year. Two veterans - Calkins Road and The Tin Man - return after layoffs of more than a year.

We All Love Aleyna may be favored. Trained by John Sadler, We All Love Aleyna was fourth despite a wide trip in the Grade 2 Knickerbocker Handicap at Belmont Park on Oct. 30.

Calkins Road, the winner of the 2002 California Cup Classic, will make his first start since finishing third in the Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park in December 2004. The Tin Man, who was fourth in the Breeders' Cup Turf in 2002 and 2003, has not raced since finishing fourth in the Clement Hirsch Handicap here in October 2004.

The Tin Man has won 7 of 21 starts and $1,097,860, but most of his success has come at distances of 1 1/4 miles or longer. Wednesday's race is a tune-up for longer races in 2006, Mandella said.

"I think he needs one to be his best," Mandella said. "He's got a little weight on him. He's training nicely."

Captain Squire is the leading money-earner in the field, having won $1,100,065. Trained by Jeff Mullins, Captain Squire won a one-mile turf race in March 2004 and placed second in the Grade 2 San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile a month later before being sidelined by injury.

Since returning in August of this year, following a layoff of more than a year, Captain Squire has run in sprints on the main track, a span of four races highlighted by a win in the Grade 1 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap in October.

In his last start, Captain Squire finished a well-beaten third in the Vernon Underwood Stakes over six furlongs at Hollywood Park on Dec. 3. Mullins said a tight trip along the rail interrupted Captain Squire's rally.

"You've got to let him hit his stride and not break his momentum," he said.

Captain Squire is likely to be near the front in the allowance race. He may be joined on the lead by Fullbridled, who has not started since finishing a game second in the Dallas Turf Cup at Lone Star Park on June 18.

Stevie Wonderboy on target for San Rafael

breezed six furlongs in 1:15.40 at Hollywood Park on Saturday and remains on course for the Grade 2 San Rafael Stakes, trainer Doug O'Neill said.

The workout time was the 12th fastest of 37 recorded works at the distance. "We were just looking for a steady work," he said.

O'Neill said Stevie Wonderboy "doesn't come unraveled" during his workouts, even though he has not started since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Belmont Park on Oct. 29.

"He's very calm. He doesn't come out of his skin like most horses that are fresh," O'Neill said. "I've been around enough horses to know a special one, and he's a special one. I've never had anything close to one like him. He's such a classy horse."

O'Neill said that Stevie Wonderboy will have one more workout, in the first few days of January, in advance of the San Rafael. Owned by Merv Griffin, Stevie Wonderboy is the leading candidate to be named champion 2-year-old male of 2005. He has won his last three starts, including the Del Mar Futurity in September.

Sharp Lisa still pointed toward La Brea

Sharp Lisa might start in Saturday's $250,000 La Brea Stakes over seven furlongs for 3-year-old fillies despite a recent injury scare, O'Neill said. A two-time stakes winner at this meeting last year, Sharp Lisa has not started since finishing fourth in the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park in April. She was briefly sidelined with a pulled muscle last month.

"I missed a couple of works because of the pulled muscle behind and this is a little worrisome," O'Neill said. "We'll play it by ear. The target is to run."

The La Brea is led by Leave Me Alone, the winner of the Grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga in August, and Pussycat Doll, the winner of two minor stakes this year.

O'Neill said that Cream Donut Keith, who has yet to win a stakes, might start, even if Sharp Lisa is in the field.