08/14/2002 11:00PM

Look who Flores is riding

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Jockey David Flores may have done handicappers a favor when he chose to ride Regiment in Saturday's $150,000 La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar.

This year, Flores has won stakes on three of the five entrants. During the winter and spring, he won three stakes on Mountain Rage, who is trained by Bob Baffert. On May 27, Flores rode the Baffert-trained Regiment to victory in the Diamond A USA Stakes at Lone Star Park. On June 1, he won the Will Rogers Handicap at Hollywood Park on Doc Holiday for trainer Wally Dollase.

"I gave David his choice and he picked Regiment," Baffert said.

Flores did not have an easy choice. Of the five entrants in the La Jolla, none are throwouts, and all five have won stakes.

Regiment is the likely second choice in the betting for the La Jolla, run for 3-year-olds over 1 1/16 miles on turf. The race is a prep for the $300,000 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 8.

Inesperado is the likely favorite. Trained by Bobby Frankel, Inesperado overcame trouble in early stretch to win his U.S. debut in the Grade 3 Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf at Hollywood Park on June 30.

Inesperado rallied through the final furlong to catch Regiment and win by a nose.

"I don't think he saw that horse coming," Baffert said of Regiment.

The Frankel camp had a different perspective, of course.

"I was impressed with the way he ran," said Humberto Ascanio, trainer Bobby Frankel's assistant. "He had trouble and still won."

Eddie Delahoussaye has the mount on Inesperado, replacing Kent Desormeaux, who is riding at Arlington Park.

Regiment and Mountain Rage will be chasing Doc Holiday, the expected leader.

The Will Rogers was Doc Holiday's lone win in five starts in this country. He subsequently finished second in the Arlington Classic on June 29.

Mountain Rage and Mutinyonthebounty will need a pace to help their late rallies.

Mutinyonthebounty finished sixth in a division of the Oceanside Stakes, but was a Group 2 stakes winner in England last year.

Mountain Rage had a four-race winning streak in turf stakes end with a third in a division of the Oceanside Stakes, a performance that did not discourage Baffert.

"We weren't planning on running him and then we saw that he was eligible," Baffert said. "He did get in the better half of the two races. This race should set him up for the Derby."

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