01/16/2003 1:00AM

Hot Market to have knee surgery

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Hot Market would have been one of the leading contenders in the inaugural Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25, but will miss the race and the next several months because of surgery on Tuesday to remove a bone chip from his left knee, trainer Craig Lewis said Thursday morning at Santa Anita.

"It's a shame, because I do think he could beat those horses, but what can you do?" Lewis said.

The California-bred Hot Market most recently finished third behind runaway winner Congaree in the San Pasqual Handicap. He has had a star-crossed career. In last fall's California Cup Classic, Hot Market broke poorly and lost all chance. He has, however, come back from much worse.

"He came back from a pretty serious injury, a fractured sesamoid. He's tough mentally, and that will help," Lewis said. "He loves to train. He loves to run. He's as tough as a junkyard dog."

Lewis said Hot Market would need several months to recuperate. He said Hot Market's best-case scenario would be to return to the races at Del Mar.

Hot Market, a 5-year-old gelding, has won six times in 17 starts and has made $348,460.

First work for Belmont winner

Sarava, who has not raced since his upset victory in last year's Belmont Stakes, began serious preparation for his first start for new trainer Bob Baffert with an eye-catching workout Thursday morning.

Although Sarava was merely breezing three furlongs, he was eager and cruised along effortlessly under exercise rider Dana Barnes on a clear, spectacular morning. He was timed in 36.20 seconds while easily repulsing a bid from a horse who tried to cut in on his work.

"He looked good, huh?" said Baffert, on his first day back on the job after a brief ski trip. "He's been wanting to do something. He went off nice and easy, and he sprang away from that other horse real quick."

As Sarava jogged back to the barn after the work, he was still feeling frisky. "He's full of himself," Baffert observed.

Baffert said Sarava would probably not be ready for a race until about two months from now.

Sarava was previously trained by Ken McPeek.

Printemps to race all year

A victorious 2003 debut in Wednesday's Paseana Handicap has earned Printemps another year on the track.

John Amerman, who owns Printemps, said the 6-year-old mare would remain in training all season. She rallied from well off the pace to score a three-length victory as the 3-2 favorite in the Paseana. She was timed in 1:42.95 for 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track. Laffit Pincay Jr. was up for trainer Ron McAnally.

Amerman said his other top South American import, Lido Palace, was pointing for the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. Lido Palace, who has not raced since taking the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs in November, is trained by Bobby Frankel.

"He's training very, very well," Amerman said. "We're off to a good start this year. We've already won a couple of races at Gulfstream, too."

Staking a claim for a stakes runner

Duke of Green had won six times in 20 starts going into Wednesday's second race. A 6-year-old horse, he had earned $317,601 in his career, including a little more than $70,000 in each of the past two years. This was the third consecutive time he raced for a $100,000 claiming price, with a victory and a third-place finish in his two previous races.

Duke of Green appeared to be perfectly placed, claim-proof. But trainer Jeff Mullins saw an opportunity, so he reached in and claimed Duke of Green from McAnally and owners Bob and Beverly Lewis for $100,000.

"There's a $150,000 stakes race at Turf Paradise on Feb. 1 for horses eligible to the Breeders' Cup, and he's eligible to the Breeders' Cup," Mullins said Thursday morning. "We figure he's got a shot in that race. That race is worth $90,000 to the winner, so if he wins, we can do pretty much whatever we want with him after that."

Mullins said his brother, Jason, first came up with the idea of claiming Duke of Green specifically for the Turf Paradise race. His brother is part of the partnership that claimed the horse.

Mullins said he had little apprehension about claiming Duke of Green for such a steep price, even though he admitted it was the most he or a client had ever spent on a claim.

"I watched his race replays, and I watched him train the morning of the race," Mullins said. "So I pretty much had my mind made up."

Duke of Green did not win on Wednesday, missing by a neck to Champion Lodge, an accomplished handicap runner in Great Britain who was making his North American debut for trainer Sandy Shulman.

* Mullins said that Lusty Latin, his good 3-year-old from last year, is ready to start breezing again after suffering from a respiratory infection that knocked him out of the Strub Series. "We had to let the antibiotics run through," Mullins said. "He should start breezing again in a week."

* The sprinter Echo Eddie, recent winner of the Dayjur Handicap at Hollywood Park, worked six furlongs in 1:14.20 on Thursday morning at Santa Anita for trainer Darrell Vienna. Vienna also sent out his turf runner Nuclear Debate for a five-furlong move on the grass, which was timed in 1:03.

* At Hollywood Park on Thursday, Bella Bellucci tuned up for Sunday's El Encino Stakes with a half-mile breeze in 51 seconds for trainer Neil Drysdale. Drysdale also worked Sunday Break a half-mile in 49.80 seconds. Sunday Break is preparing for the Strub Stakes on Feb. 1. The Bobby Frankel-trained filly Sightseek, who will make her next start in the Santa Monica Handicap on Jan. 25, zipped six furlongs in 1:12.40. Her time was the quickest of eight at the distance.