02/19/2003 12:00AM

Greely seeks paydirt

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Sligo Bay is a turf horse who will try to win the richest dirt race of winter - the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 1. Is it folly? Not if Sligo Bay runs as well on dirt as he trains on it. Sligo Bay, winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup, drilled a half-mile Tuesday at Santa Anita in 47.20 seconds, fastest of 29 workouts at the distance.

"We just wanted an easy little half, and he went beautifully," trainer Beau Greely said.

Based at Hollywood Park, Sligo Bay shipped across town early Tuesday for the work, and returned to Hollywood Park late morning. The Big Cap has been planned for Sligo Bay for several weeks, and even though his 17 starts have all been on grass, the 5-year-old's pedigree endorses the main-track experiment.

"His whole bottom side is clearly dirt; his dam is a full to Glorious Song and Devil's Bag," Greely said. "It's an experiment, but he acts like he'll like it."

According to Greely, Laffit Pincay Jr. will ride Sligo Bay, who was sired by Sadler's Wells. Sligo Bay, owned by Columbine Stable, has won four races and earned $484,935.

Just Wonder to test Derby path

The turf-to-dirt maneuver will also be attempted in the 3-year-old division. Just Wonder, winner of a first-level turf allowance race in his United States debut on Jan. 31, is aiming for the Grade 2 San Rafael Stakes on the Santa Anita Handicap undercard.

Trained by Laura de Seroux, Just Wonder will ship from his San Luis Rey headquarters for a Friday workout over the Santa Anita main track, then try to leap into the Kentucky Derby picture by running in the one-mile San Rafael.

"He's got a lot of dirt in his pedigree, and he seems to get hold of the dirt really well," de Seroux said. "He doesn't have a daisy-cutting action that usually means turf."

Just Wonder was sired by Hernando, and is out of a Capote mare (Just Fly) who raced exclusively on turf. Kent Desormeaux, who rode Just Wonder in his first U.S. start, will be up for the Friday work. Just Wonder will work in company with another of de Seroux's runners, with the trainer hopeful that he will benefit from getting some dirt in his face.

Azeri to have first work

Just Wonder, of course, is not the only de Seroux trainee gearing up for a race. Horse of the Year Azeri has resumed serious training and will record the first official workout of her comeback on Saturday at San Luis Rey. "She looks fantastic. We can go right on with her," de Seroux said.

The first main goal for Azeri is the Grade 1 Apple Blossom on April 5 at Oaklawn Park.

Mandella's leading horses to work

Friday is a big day for workouts at Santa Anita. Trainer Richard Mandella's Big Cap starters, Pleasantly Perfect and Kudos, are scheduled for final pre-race works. Pleasantly Perfect finished third in his Feb. 2 comeback, and Mandella expects the 5-year-old to improve considerably in his second start back.

"I didn't realize how much he needed the race; he's a big heavy thing," Mandella said.

Mandella said he intends to start Pleasantly Perfect in the Big Cap, and he also could run in the $6 million Dubai World Cup four weeks later.

Kudos finished second in his Jan. 4 comeback, then missed a workout last week because of wet weather. Because the Big Cap comes two months after his comeback, and that rainy weather has curtailed training here, Kudos's mile workout is more significant than Pleasantly Perfect's.

While Kudos is not being considered for Dubai, Mandella said Redattore could run.

Redattore will stay on grass for his next start, in the one-mile, Grade 2 Frank Kilroe Handicap on the Big Cap undercard.

* The 3-year-old Ocean Terrace, winner of a seven-furlong allowance race on Sunday, will stretch out to two turns and try graded stakes company in his next start. Trained by Bob Hess, Ocean Terrace scored his second win of the meet Sunday, and starts next in either the Grade 2 San Felipe on March 16 at Santa Anita, or the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby on March 8 at Golden Gate Fields.

* Two-time stakes winner Ayanna has been retired and will be bred this spring in Kentucky. As a 2-year-old, the Kory Owens-trained Ayanna won a pair of stakes races. But, she was unable to return to top form this winter, and finished last in her final start. Ayanna retires having won three races and $162,498 from 12 starts.

* Kent Desormeaux has picked up choice mounts in two Grade 2 sprints Saturday at Laurel. Desormeaux will ride D'wildcat in the $200,000 General George Handicap, and Carson Hollow in the $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap.

* Got Koko worked five furlongs Wednesday in 1:02.80, and is on target for the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Handicap on March 9. Got Koko, trained by Bruce Headley, swept Santa Anita's three-race La Canada series for 4-year-old fillies and will be facing Grade 1 winners Affluent and Starrer in the Santa Margarita.