06/06/2004 11:00PM

Lunar Lion gets to strut his stuff


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Asking the tough question is something trainers are often forced to do with young horses.

That is what Art Sherman will have to do Wednesday at Bay Meadows with unbeaten Lunar Lion, who is 2 for 2 in his career.

"It will be a tough race, but he's done everything right," Sherman said.

Tough is an understatement for Wednesday's first-level allowance sprint for 3-year-olds.

Blairs Roarin Star, the runner-up in last year's Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile, makes his second start after an eight-month layoff. He led in the lane last time before weakening late and should improve off that try.

Tacky, whose connections had high hopes for him this spring, returns from a nearly three-month break, but he likely is prepping for longer.

Lunar Lion's stablemate Jet West ran one of the highest-rated 2-year-old sprints here last fall, then was given seven months off. He, too, has a prep under his belt, a solid second-place effort at this level.

Jet West showed vast improvement in his second start last year and has a bullet work since his comeback. On paper, he appears better than Lunar Lion.

The one they may all be watching down the stretch is Jeffries Bay, a $250,000 yearling purchase who won by 4 1/2 lengths in his debut. He alternated on the lead against a fast pace early and still pulled away late, giving signs that his six-figure purchase price was not out of line.

Lunar Lion is the lone member of the field to have run for a claiming tag. He was in for $32,000 in his debut and then won a starter allowance in his second start.

Sherman knows Lunar Lion still has a lot to prove. A strong showing Wednesday could have Sherman lifting his sights; a poor showing could relegate Lunar Lion to the claiming ranks.

"He didn't surprise me in his debut," Sherman said. "He'd been training good, and, frankly, I was taking a shot.

"He's a neat horse. How good, how fast, we'll find out, but he's a trier. When he runs, he lays his body down and gives you his all."

Which is all any trainer can ask. And that's why it's important to spot him where he can win.

Allowance company? Stakes company? Claiming ranks? Sherman will have a better idea come Wednesday night.

Short field possible for Oaks

Two stakes are scheduled for this weekend. Three-year-old fillies are in the spotlight Saturday in the $75,000 Bay Meadows Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Leading trainer Jerry Hollendorfer will send out Crozet, who has won the last two times she has raced on the turf, and Secret Corsage, who set the pace in the the San Jose Stakes before finishing second to stablemate Heavenly Humor.

Heavenly Humor, who would have been the 119-pound highweight in the Oaks, will stay in the barn after showing a temperature and a high white-cell count last weekend.

Two interesting prospects from Southern California - the Irish-bred Kurlicue, who won her U.S. debut, and recent allowance winner Dawn's Angel - also are likely to run in what could be a short field.

On Sunday, the $55,000-added Malcolm Anderson Stakes will be run at 4 1/2 furlongs. Twenty-five 2-year-olds have been nominated.

Streak ends at 9 for Ema Bovary

Smarty Jones wasn't the only runner to have a winning streak snapped last weekend. Northern California-based Ema Bovary owned a nine-race win streak, the longest in the country, but it went down when she ran second to Coconut Girl in the Grade 3, $106,000 Desert Stormer at Hollywood Park on Saturday.

Ema Bovary didn't run badly. She just didn't win.

"I was in a perfect spot as we turned for home," regular rider Roberto Gonzalez said. "I started pushing on her, and she wasn't responding. I guess she was picking it up a little bit but not really making any impact. On the middle of the turn, I knew I was in deep trouble."

Gonzalez said Ema Bovary pulled up all right, and trainer Larry Ross said she looked good after the race.

"We'll see what happens, check it out, and go from there," Ross said.

Perez given five-day suspension

Jockey Miguel Perez was suspended five days beginning Friday for last Friday's ride aboard Bound to Thaw, who came out as the field was straightening for home and caused a chain-reaction accident. Bound to Thaw was disqualified from fourth to eighth.

Perez was also fined $300 for a whip violation for hitting R Lil Rose, his mount for Thursday's first race, over the head during the post parade.

* Jockey Ron Warren Jr. was fined $50 for reporting late to the jockeys' room Thursday.