10/01/2003 12:00AM

Goodwood key race for Reba's Gold

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Reba's Gold was in the best form of his 2002 campaign in late September and early October, winning the Pomona Handicap at Fairplex Park and returning the following weekend to run third in the Grade 2 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita.

This year, owner Alex Trebek and trainer Dan Hendricks considered the same plan, but scratched out of last Sunday's Pomona Handicap in favor of Saturday's $500,000 Goodwood.

"It would have been too much to run back," Hendricks said. "Last year, we did it because the Pomona Handicap didn't take too much out of him. We made the decision last year after the first race. It's more important to run here for $500,000 and the grade."

But where will it lead?

Last year, Reba's Gold went to Japan for the Japan Cup Dirt in November and finished ninth.

This fall, Hendricks wants Reba's Gold ready for the Oct. 25 program at Santa Anita. He just isn't sure which race. Aside from the Breeders' Cup Classic, the $150,000 Seabiscuit Handicap over 1 1/16 miles is being considered.

Reba's Gold has one victory in four starts this year, the Seabiscuit Handicap at Bay Meadows in May. He subsequently finished third in the Californian and San Diego Handicap and second in the Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap over a mile on Sept. 1.

"He'll run in the Goodwood, and if he runs well he'll be back on Breeders' Cup Day," he said. "If he wins by five, I'm looking at the Breeders' Cup Classic."

The same sentiment is shared by at least some of the hopefuls for the Goodwood, the richest race of the upcoming weekend.

Run over 1 1/8 miles, the race is expected to draw Fleetstreet Dancer, Joey Franco, Grey Memo, Pleasantly Perfect, Taste of Paradise, and Toccet.

Valenzuela may ride Congaree

Congaree, the winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup and one of the top older horses in the nation, is passing the Goodwood Handicap. On Wednesday, he worked six furlongs in 1:12 under jockey Patrick Valenzuela, who may gain the mount for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

"He did it well within himself," Valenzuela said. "He finished nicely in the last eighth."

Congaree was ridden by Edgar Prado when he finished second to Perfect Drift in the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park on Sept. 13, his most recent start

Valenzuela has never ridden Congaree in a race. Trainer Bob Baffert said a decision regarding who will ride Congaree in the Breeders' Cup Classic will be made after consulting with owners Robert and Janice McNair.

Ruler's Court looks to regain form

In early summer, Ruler's Court was considered one of the top 2-year-olds in California. Three months later, he will be trying to regain that reputation when he starts in Sunday's $250,000 Norfolk Stakes over 1 1/16 miles.

Ruler's Court beat maidens by two lengths in his debut at Hollywood Park on June 11, but was only third as a heavy favorite in the Hollywood Juvenile on July 19 and a disappointing fourth in the Grade 2 Best Pal at Del Mar on Aug. 17.

Even when he was not starting in top stakes, things went badly.

Trainer Eoin Harty sent Ruler's Court to the Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway Park last month, but the start was canceled when the colt developed colic.

After recovering a few days later, Ruler's Court was sent back to Santa Anita to wait for the Norfolk. The race is a key prep for his chances of starting in the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Oct. 25.

"He is 100 percent ready," Harty said. "If he's good enough, we'll be right there."

Run over 1 1/16 miles, the Norfolk will draw a strong field, including Siphonizer and Perfect Moon, the first- and third-place finishers of the Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 10, and three runners trained by Bob Baffert - Coldntight, Consecrate, and Odds On. The Baffert trio is making their stakes debuts.

The other starters are Capitano, Lucky Pulpit, Mambo Train, and Pomeroy. Pomeroy finished first in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile but was disqualified and placed third for causing interference in early stretch.

Key Breeders' Cup preps

The Norfolk is of one of three stakes on Sunday's program, all of which are Breeders' Cup preps. The others are the $200,000 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap, which is a prep to the Breeders' Cup Sprint, and the $300,000 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile.

On Wednesday, trainer Beau Greely told racing officials that he intends to supplement Century City, the winner of the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap, to the Oak Tree Mile for $5,000. Century City has not started since finishing seventh in the Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile at Hollywood Park in late May.

Special Ring will be a strong favorite in the Oak Tree Mile.

Senor Swinger out of Oak Tree Derby

Senor Swinger, the winner of two stakes at Churchill Downs earlier this year, is passing Saturday's $150,000 Oak Tree Derby and will be pre-entered for the Breeders' Cup Mile, Baffert said on Wednesday.

Owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, Senor Swinger was fourth as the beaten favorite in the Del Mar Derby on Sept. 6, a race that Baffert quickly dismissed because of the condition of the turf course. "That wasn't turf, it was sand," Baffert said.

Senor Swinger is winless in three starts since the Grade 3 Jefferson Cup Stakes at Churchill Downs in early June. Baffert said the Oak Tree Derby and Breeders' Cup Mile are too close together for Senor Swinger to run in both.

The Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby will have a small field, including Sweet Return, the third-place finisher in the Del Mar Derby, Devious Boy, and Domestic Dispute.