04/05/2005 12:00AM

Guidry has learned to adapt

Mark Guidry and Buzzards Bay (right) will be 10-1 or higher Saturday.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Buzzards Bay will start at a big price - 10-1 or higher - on Saturday when he faces the filly Sweet Catomine in the Santa Anita Derby. Not that the jockey for Buzzards Bay will notice.

"I'm not a betting man, so that makes no difference," Mark Guidry said Tuesday morning at Santa Anita, where he worked Buzzards Bay five furlongs for trainer Jeff Mullins. The odds may not matter to Guidry, but they matter to horseplayers who have witnessed the veteran rider's emergence as a Southern California mainstay.

Riding full time this winter in California, Guidry has won 19 races from 123 mounts, and has produced the highest mutuel return among the top 20 riders - $2.49 for every $2 win bet. Guidry entered the week ranked 14th in the standings, with a superb 19-8 ratio of wins to seconds. Not bad for a 45-year-old from the Midwest breaking into a new circuit.

"It's hard to be disappointed winning 19 races, but you always want to do better," Guidry said. "It's a building process. The fields are small, and these [other] riders have been here for a long time."

Guidry has made the most of his opportunities, winning at a solid 15 percent clip, making few mistakes, and adapting to the California style - speed.

"I was labeled a come-from-behind rider, but I can get aggressive like anybody else," said Guidry, whose highest-paying winners this meet - Prison Caper ($59.40) on March 10 and Verkade ($52.40) on March 5 - both raced gate to wire. In the Santa Anita Derby, Guidry and Buzzards Bay will rally from behind.

Guidry and agent Paul Truitt have been fortunate to hook up with a leading trainer in Mullins. Guidry and Mullins have combined for five wins at Santa Anita, and the first time Guidry rode Buzzards Bay - in the Golden Gate Derby on Jan. 15 - they won by nose.

"He showed me a lot of heart that day," Guidry said. "He doesn't mind competition."

Next out, Buzzards Bay struggled with the Fair Grounds track and finished 10th in the Grade 3 Risen Star, but returned to form on March 12 with a good third in the Grade 3 El Camino Real at Bay Meadows, beaten 2 1/4 lengths. Mullins said the race was better than it looked.

"If he hadn't bled that day, it's hard to say where he would have finished," Mullins said, adding that Buzzards Bay bled a "5" on a scale of 1 to 10. It was the first and only time he has bled in a race or subsequent works. On Tuesday after the 8 a.m. break, Buzzards Bay worked five furlongs. He broke off two lengths behind an unidentified maiden and outran that rival to the wire in 1:00.

Mullins will be trying to win his third consecutive Santa Anita Derby, having scored in 2004 with Castledale and 2003 with Buddy Gil. As for Buzzards Bay, Guidry said, "He's training great, and going in the right direction. That's all you can really ask for."

That - and also a big price.

Field of 11 expected for derby

The filly Sweet Catomine, who will start favored in the Santa Anita Derby, jogged one mile early Tuesday.

The Grade 1, 1 1/8-mile race is led by the winners of both 2-year-old Breeders' Cup races last fall - Juvenile winner Wilko, and Juvenile Fillies winner Sweet Catomine.

The only changes Tuesday were the expected defection of Texcess and the addition of the maiden A.P. Arrow, leaving a probable field of 11. The draw was scheduled for Wednesday morning.

The probable field, in order of approximate odds: Sweet Catomine (Corey Nakatani); Wilko (Frankie Dettori); Giacomo (Mike Smith); Don't Get Mad (Tyler Baze); Buzzards Bay (Mark Guidry); Wannawinemall (Alex Solis); General John B (Jon Court); A.P. Arrow (Jose Valdivia); Go Coyote Joe (Martin Pedroza); Customer (no rider); and Allright (Tammi Piermarini).

The Santa Anita Derby is scheduled to go as race 6 on an 11-race card. First post Saturday is noon Pacific; post time for the Derby is 2:42.

Lukas says maiden merits a chance

A.P. Arrow is the best-bred colt in the Santa Anita Derby, but he also will be the least experienced. Sired by A.P. Indy and a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Geri, A.P. Arrow will make his second career start Saturday. In his March 16 debut for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, A.P. Arrow rallied from next-to-last, ran second, and looked like a colt who wanted more ground.

"We knew he wasn't going to win a six-furlong race," Lukas said Tuesday from Churchill Downs. "He surprised us. He closed like a freight train. When this horse goes two turns, watch out. He's improving by leaps and bounds."

Lukas said A.P. Arrow got a late start to his career because of his late foaling date - May 18, 2002.

"I wouldn't try this with any horse," Lukas said, "but this horse is very talented, and with all respect to the rest of the field, the race looks like it's wide open."

Jose Valdivia rides A.P. Arrow, who earned an 86 Beyer first out. There is precedent for second-start improvement. It was 10 years ago at Santa Anita when Geri earned an 86 Beyer in a maiden sprint, then stretched out to two turns and won with a 98 Beyer. Geri was trained in his first four starts by Bill Shoemaker, and later became a Grade 1 winner for Bill Mott.

Snow Chief likely option for Texcess

The gelding Texcess is expected to skip the Santa Anita Derby and aim instead for the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for California-bred 3-year-olds on April 24 at Hollywood Park.

Texcess was scheduled to work a half-mile on Wednesday, after which a decision would be made, but trainer Paul Aguirre said Tuesday, "I'm leaning toward the Cal-bred race."

Texcess won the $1 million Delta Jackpot on Dec. 4, and subsequently placed in two Derby preps. But in his most recent start on a muddy track at Turfway Park on March 26, Texcess finished last in the Grade 2 Lane's End.