03/13/2003 1:00AM

Man Among Men aiming for bigger game


ARCADIA, Calif. - Man Among Men is a 3-year-old stakes winner searching for respect in Sunday's $250,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.

Last month, Man Among Men won his first race on dirt in the restricted Sham Stakes. In that race, over 1 1/8 miles, Man Among Men outfinished Empire Maker, who is the 9-5 favorite for Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby.

When the morning line was established for this weekend's Kentucky Derby Future Wager, Empire Maker was 12-1, while Man Among Men was 30-1.

Man Among Men will be a much shorter price by Sunday evening if he runs well in the San Felipe.

Trained by Gary Mandella for R.D. Hubbard and Connie Sczesny, Man Among Men was originally scheduled to run after the Sham in the Santa Anita Derby on April 5. Mandella, the son of Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, changed his mind after watching Man Among Men train in late February.

"I'd rather not start, but he came out of his last race too sharp to wait for the Santa Anita Derby," Gary Mandella said. "He keeps coming out of a race a little sharper. If you put that much space between races, your works have to be perfect.

"I'd feel pretty dumb if it started to rain and I took him to the Santa Anita Derby half-ready."

Man Among Men is already proven over 1 1/8 miles, and Mandella feels Man Among Men may be at a disadvantage over the San Felipe trip of 1 1/16 miles. He will be ridden by Alex Solis and will be part of a strong field that includes Atswhatimtalknbout, Brancusi, Buckland Manor, Buddy Gil, Domestic Dispute, Flirt With Fortune, Logician, Siberland, and Ten Cents a Shine.

For some starters, it will be as far as they get on the Kentucky Derby trail. For others, it will be a springboard to the Santa Anita Derby.

Mandella has his sights set firmly on the Santa Anita Derby, even if Man Among Men doesn't win on Sunday.

"I'm not saying he can't win, but I'd rather not back up in distance," he said. "He might be at a disadvantage to a couple of these horses."

Baffert, Stevens win with rising runners

Trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Gary Stevens won optional claiming races on Wednesday with a pair of 3-year-olds bound for important stakes.

In the second race, the filly Santa Catarina made her 2003 debut with an easy five-length win over one mile. In the fourth race, During, a colt, beat winners for the first time in a one-mile race.

During finished three-quarters of a length in front of Touch the Wire and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 103.

During will be pointed for the Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct on April 12.

"He's still pretty green," Stevens said of During. "He saw the tractor marks and started looking around. I didn't want to hit him because he was doing everything right.

"He'll get better, but it's a question of how quickly he gets better."

Baffert has not decided where Santa Catarina will reappear. Wednesday's second race was her first start since a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last October. Santa Catarina is owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, who also own Composure, the winner of the Santa Anita Oaks on March 8.

Stevens is convinced that Santa Catarina could have won by more than five lengths if she had been asked.

"She was really fresh," Stevens said. "I was almost choking her down on the backstretch. I was concerned because when you take that much of a hold you cut their air off. When I turned her loose, she showed a lot of class."

Budroyale's owner-trainer team at it again

In the late 1990's owner Jeffrey Sengara and trainer Ted West turned the ex-claimer Budroyale into a multiple stakes winner who finished second in the 1999 Breeders' Cup Classic.

This year, they are hoping that one of their recent claims, Bluesthestandard, also can rise from a claimer into a stakes horse.

On Wednesday, Bluesthestandard won a $67,340 optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles, a race that is likely to lead to a stakes appearance for the 6-year-old. The win came almost a year to the day after Bluesthestandard had won a $10,000 claimer for sprinters.

Sengara claimed Bluesthestandard for $50,000 on Dec. 31, and has watched the Georgia-bred win two subsequent starts.

"I wouldn't sell him for $100,000," West said. "I think his next race will be a little stakes."

Wednesday's optional claimer was the first time that Bluesthestandard has raced beyond seven furlongs.

"It wasn't as much of an experiment as it sounded," West said. "We had looked into his pedigree. For a horse that has a great record sprinting, this opens up a lot of options when they can go long."

Bluesthestandard has been claimed five times in his 23-month career.

He was claimed when he won his debut against maidens for $22,500 in April 2001, and in three consecutive races during the winter of 2002 - for $10,000, $16,000, and $10,000. For most of last year, Bluesthestandard was trained by Mark Glatt, and then he was claimed by Sengara.

"We watched him and we didn't claim him because he had a reputation of being a cripple, but he's not that way," West said. "A horse can't win two-thirds of his races if he's broken down."

Bluesthestandard, who owns a remarkable record of 12 wins in 19 starts, was so wide on the first turn of Wednesday's race that West gave up. But jockey G.F. Almeida kept Bluesthestandard close to the pace and took the lead in early stretch. Bluesthestandard was all out to finish a nose in front of Bring Home Thegold.

"At the three-quarters pole, I thought he wouldn't be on the board," West said. "He was a pretty tired horses in the last sixteenth.

"We went back to the barn 90 minutes later. He was attacking his hay rack. You can't measure his heart. He's got the same mental attitude as Budroyale. But there's only one Bud."

Lukas has Repository right

Repository, a stakes winner at Churchill Downs last year during Kentucky Derby week, won her first stakes in California on Wednesday with a front-running score in the $80,400 Winter Solstice Stakes.

Repository had a one-length advantage over Paga in the first half of the race and held off a late run from Brocky's Dream to win by a half-length. Ridden by leading jockey Patrick Valenzuela for the Rafter L Stable, Repository ($12.60) finished about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course in 1:12.41. Paga finished third.

The race marked Repository's third start for trainer D. Wayne Lukas since she was added to his stable last fall. "This is the first time I felt like I had her right," Lukas said.

The Winter Solstice was Repository's first victory since the Mamzelle Stakes over five furlongs on turf at Churchill Downs last April.

Lukas said the 5-year-old Repository will return to Kentucky where she will be pointed for stakes at Keeneland and Churchill Downs.