03/31/2005 1:00AM

Inspiring's comeback bears watching cutline

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Inspiring relied on her impressive speed to go undefeated in two starts last summer, including a win in the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar. That turned out to be her last start of the year, her campaign halted by injury.

On Saturday, Inspiring returns in the $75,000 Santa Paula Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita. This time, she may have a different running style, trainer Bob Baffert said.

Typical of most of Baffert's horses, Inspiring has worked quickly in recent weeks, including a workout with jockey Gary Stevens aboard.

But Baffert said Inspiring might not be as speed-reliant now as she was when she won the Sorrento Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs by leading throughout.

"I'm excited about seeing her comeback," Baffert said. "She won't be too speed crazy. Gary has gotten her to relax. I don't know if that will be her style. Last year, she had to go to the lead."

Owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, Inspiring faces a decent field, and must beat She's a Jewel and stablemate No Bull Baby, among others.

She's a Jewel was second in the Sunshine Millions Oaks for California-breds and Florida-breds here on Jan. 29, her final start for trainer Vladimir Cerin. She was then transferred by owner Ernie Moody to Jay Robbins. The Santa Paula will be her first start for Robbins.

She's a Jewel finished third behind No Bull Baby in the Moccasin Stakes over seven furlongs at Hollywood Park last November. Since that race, No Bull Baby has started in three stakes. She was second in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes here in January and fifth in the La Habra Stakes on turf on March 6.

Baffert is dismissing No Bull Baby's loss on turf, No Bull Baby's only start on the surface.

"Sometimes you've got to try," Baffert said. "She didn't 'turf-it' at all."

There are seven fillies in the Santa Paula, including the stakes winners Coastal Strike and Hello Lucky.

Coastal Strike won the Generous Portion Stakes for California-breds at Del Mar last summer but was well-beaten in the Sunshine Millions Oaks and La Habra Stakes. Those losses have left trainer Clifford Sise rattled.

"When you love them twice and they get beat, you lose your pizzazz," Sise said.

Hello Lucky won the Anoakia Stakes at six furlongs here in October, but was well-beaten in the Moccasin and Sunshine Millions Oaks.

Splendid Blended to skip Ky. Oaks

Splendid Blended, the winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes last December at Hollywood Park, will not start in the Kentucky Oaks, trainer Neil Drysdale said on Thursday.

Owned by Peter Vegso, Splendid Blended has not started since the Starlet. Drysdale did not disclose the ailment that will keep Splendid Blended sidelined.

A winner of 3 of 4 starts and $327,400, Splendid Blended finished second to Sweet Catomine in the Oak Leaf Stakes last October at Santa Anita.

Add longshots to growing derby field

The potential field for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 9 swelled to 12 on Thursday when trainer Nick Hines said All Right and Customer were probable starters. Both are owned by Jim McIngvale and will be longshots.

Customer finished fourth in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows on March 12, but is still a maiden after two starts. Allright won a maiden race over a mile on turf at Bay Meadows on March 10.

Others probable for the Santa Anita Derby are Buzzards Bay, Don't Get Mad, Giacomo, General John B, Golden Shine, Go Coyote Joe, Sweet Catomine, Texcess, and Wannawinemall.

Hines said the wide-open field for the Santa Anita Derby was a major factor in the decision.

"Obviously, this was a Team McIngvale decision," he said. "Even the longshots deserve a chance.

"This is a situation you have to do the wrong thing at the right time. It's never the right thing to run a maiden in a Grade 1, but with the 3-year-old situation, there is a no standout - at least on the West Coast.

"Our objective with a 3-year-old that has talent, such as Customer, is the Kentucky Derby. We'll take a shot at the big dance."

Stute 3-year-olds work

Go Coyote Joe, fourth in the Santa Catalina Stakes on March 5 in his stakes debut, worked a mile in 1:42.60 in company with Warren Stute-trained stablemate Greeley's Galaxy on Thursday. Greeley's Galaxy is a candidate for the $500,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne on April 9.

Greeley's Galaxy had been considered for the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 16, but that race is expected to draw a very tough field.

"The [Illinois Derby] has come up easier and we can give the horse some confidence," said Glen Stute, Warren's son and assistant trainer.

Cajun Beat shifts focus to Keeneland

Cajun Beat, the winner of the 2003 Breeders' Cup Sprint, will pass $200,000 Sunday's Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap in favor of the $300,000 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Handicap at Keeneland on April 16, trainer Bobby Frankel said.

Cajun Beat was sixth in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf in his most recent start on March 5.

Frankel will start Ice Wynnd Fire in the Grade 2 Portrero Grande over 6 1/2 furlongs. Ice Wynnd Fire has not started since finishing second in the Grade 2 Jerome Handicap at Belmont Park last September.

The other probable starters for the Potrero Grande include Harvard Avenue, Hasty Kris, Kela, Perfect Moon, Rushin' to Altar, and Saint Afleet.