02/08/2005 1:00AM

Kirkendahl out to make amends

Benoit & Associates
Kirkendahl (above) baffled trainer Ted H. West with his last-place finish in the San Rafael. Chandtrue will skip the San Vicente on Sunday and shoot for the Swale at Gulfstream Park on March 5.

ARCADIA, Calif. - It only took one mile for the Kirkendahl bandwagon to empty. After winning his first two starts in sprints, the 3-year-old colt was favored when he stretched out Jan. 15 in the Grade 2 San Rafael Stakes. He was empty at the quarter pole and finished last of five. So what happened?

"It's a head-scratcher," trainer Ted H. West said. "I thought he was going to run huge that day. He was down inside, in a bad spot, and maybe it was intimidating for an inexperienced horse. The question was the route, and maybe it was too soon for him."

Kirkendahl will try to restore his reputation Sunday when he shortens to seven furlongs in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes.

"We know he's a good sprinter already," West said. "He's doing great, and training great."

Kirkendahl has credentials. In his first start he defeated subsequent stakes winner Going Wild, then earned a 99 Beyer Speed Figure winning his second start in an allowance. Owned by country music star Toby Keith, Kirkendahl is in a strong San Vicente field that includes graded-stakes winners Roman Ruler and Consolidator.

Chips Are Down, who lost a shoe finishing fourth in the Grade 2 San Rafael, could resume his campaign as soon as this weekend. Trainer Bob Baffert said he will consider running the colt in the San Vicente "to give him a race."

Chips Are Down is owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, whose D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt Consolidator also will run in the San Vicente. On form, Chips Are Down has to be considered a Derby contender; he finished only a length behind Texcess in an allowance in November, and defeated Spanish Chestnut by three-quarters of a length in December. On Saturday, Chips Are Down worked six furlongs in a bullet 1:11.40.

Chandtrue now targets Swale

The undefeated 3-year-old Chandtrue has run out of time to prepare for the San Vicente. Instead, trainer Bob Hess Jr. said he would point Chandtrue to the Grade 2 Swale Stakes, a seven-furlong sprint at Gulfstream Park on March 5 that the Hess-trained D'wildcat won by more than 10 lengths in 2001.

Chandtrue, Hess said, "will be nominated for the Swale, and trained accordingly." Chandtrue won all four starts as a 2-year-old last summer, including the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile. Owned by Harold Greene, Chandtrue worked six furlongs Sunday in 1:13.40. The Swale sets up a showdown between two unbeaten 3-year-olds - Chandtrue and Lost in the Fog.

Riders pursuing Truly a Judge

David Bernstein's phone has been busy. The trainer of San Antonio Handicap runner-up Truly a Judge said he has fielded numerous calls from parties interested in riding Truly a Judge on March 5 in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap. As of Tuesday, Bernstein said there were no plans to change riders. Jockey Martin Pedroza compromised Truly a Judge's best quality - his speed - by slowing the San Antonio pace to a crawl, then leaving open an inside lane that winner Lundy's Liability was able to slip through.

"I'm not going to knock Martin," Bernstein said. "He'd ridden the horse great in his previous races. It's done now."

Truly a Judge will aim for the Santa Anita Handicap, a race from which the Bernstein-trained The Wicked North was disqualified from first place in 1994. As for Truly a Judge, Bernstein admits being disappointed at the San Antonio loss. "But he tries hard," he said, "and you can't fault a horse when he tries."

Inspiring is coming around

Inspiring has not raced since Aug. 7, seemingly well behind schedule to be considered a sensible gamble in the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager. Trainer Bob Baffert said not to write her off. "She won't be behind schedule by that race . . . if she can go that far," he said.

Inspiring worked Monday, and Baffert said that "she's hitting on all cylinders." Winner of the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes last summer at Del Mar, Inspiring is expected to return in early March.

That would not be too late for Kentucky Oaks consideration. In 1994, Sardula made her first start at age 3 on April 9, and won the Kentucky Oaks a month later in her second start of the season. Sardula, however, raced five times as a 2-year-old, including three starts in routes. Inspiring has raced only twice, and not yet beyond 6 1/2 furlongs.

A more advanced field of 3-year-old fillies race one mile Saturday in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes, led by Santa Ynez winner Sharp Lisa and Santa Ysabel runner-up Pussycat Doll. A field of six to eight is expected, including Classic Elegance, Hot Attraction, Memorette, On London Time, Pussycat Doll, and Sharp Lisa. Under consideration are Amazing Buy and Brooke's Halo.

Southern Image moves forward

The 2004 Santa Anita Handicap winner Southern Image is tack-walking at Santa Anita and will resume jogging this week, trainer Mike Machowsky said. The 5-year-old has not raced since June, and has no immediate timetable for a comeback. Machowsky said Southern Image would not return to the track when his regular blacksmith returns this week: "I've waited this long, I don't want to screw things up now."

House of Fortune has relaxed work

It was only a slow, half-mile workout Tuesday morning, but graded-stakes winner House of Fortune got through it one piece. It was good news relative to the Jan. 29 disaster that was the Sunshine Millions Distaff. House of Fortune finished eighth in the race that trainer Ron McAnally would just as soon forget.

"She almost went down on the first turn," he said, "and her saddle slipped . . . way up on her neck."

The 51.60-second workout Tuesday was the first since for House of Fortune since she raced. McAnally said no plans have been made for the 4-year-old filly, who has won six races and $560,819 from 13 starts.

* Island Fashion worked three furlongs Monday, her first work since a runner-up finish Jan. 30 in the Grade 1 Santa Monica. Trainer Marcelo Polanco timed her in 35.80; clockers gave her a half-mile in 48. Polanco said Island Fashion came out of the Santa Monica "really good," and would discuss with owner Jeffrey Nielsen where she runs next. The Grade 1 Santa Margarita Handicap on March 12 is the next logical race.

* Victory U. S. A. looked phenomenal working six furlongs Tuesday for trainer Bob Baffert in 1:12.20. The Grade 2 winner has not raced since finishing third in the Grade 2 San Clemente last summer at Del Mar. She has won three races and $613,637 from 11 starts.