01/12/2006 1:00AM

Greeley's Galaxy on the rebound

Illinois Derby winner Greeley's Galaxy has run three straight clunkers but looks tough in the San Fernando.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The recent form of Greeley's Galaxy seems easy to criticize in advance of Saturday's $200,000 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes at Santa Anita.

won the Grade 2 Illinois Derby by 9 1/2 lengths last April, but followed with an 11th in the Kentucky Derby and a seventh in the Preakness Stakes last May. When he returned from injury and finished seventh in the Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26, his backers could understandably be frustrated by the loss.

But in recent days, rival trainers such as Bob Baffert and Richard Mandella have consistently mentioned Greeley's Galaxy as the horse they fear in the Grade 2 San Fernando at 1 1/16 miles.

"I think Greeley's Galaxy needed the seven-eighths race," Baffert said of the Malibu.

"That horse has looked very good in training," Mandella said.

Trained by Warren Stute for B. Wayne Hughes, Greeley's Galaxy is one of nine 4-year-olds in the San Fernando. The race is a prep to the $300,000 Strub Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 4.

Stute, 84, is taking a cautious approach, but did say he was impressed by Greeley's Galaxy's one-mile workout in 1:39.60 on Tuesday.

"He's sound, and he didn't bleed," Stute said. "We've scoped him each time he's worked and he's clean.

"We expect a big race out of him," Stute added. "He's doing everything right."

Stute described Greeley's Galaxy's seventh-place finish in the Malibu Stakes as "fair. He didn't impress me or anything."

Greeley's Galaxy starts as an entry with Osidy, a stakes winner on turf.

Three entrants are making their stakes debuts - Canteen, Distorted, and Swing Your Partner.

, has been first or second in his last four starts, including wins against maidens here in October and an allowance race at 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park in December.

Swing Your Partner won two seven-furlong allowance races at Hollywood Park and is making his first start around two turns. Distorted won two allowance races at 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park.

is making his first start on dirt in the United States. He was second in one of England's top dirt races last April, and is winless in two U.S. starts in turf stakes.

Baffert trains Sort It Out, who finished 17th in the 2005 Kentucky Derby. Baffert said Chips Are Down, the Bien Bien Stakes winner at Hollywood Park in November, would miss the race because of a foot abscess.