11/11/2004 12:00AM

Mandella likes new guy's looks

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - After returning from Kentucky on Wednesday night, trainer Richard Mandella on Thursday set about the task of preparing his suddenly rejuvenated stock of 3-year-olds, which was enhanced earlier this week by the addition of Rock Hard Ten.

"I just saw him today," Mandella said from his Santa Anita barn, where Rock Hard Ten was transferred from trainer Jason Orman on Tuesday. "He looks good so far."

Rock Hard Ten, who won the Swaps Stakes and was second in the Preakness, was freshened after a disappointing race in the Haskell Invitational in August. He has been working steadily in recent weeks, and most recently had a five-furlong workout.

Mandella on Thursday worked the horses who until Tuesday had been considered the best 3-year-olds in his barn, Action This Day and Minister Eric. Action This Day, who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last year, worked five furlongs in 1:01. Minister Eric is slightly farther along in his comeback preparations. He traveled six furlongs in 1:12.40, the best time of 14 at the distance.

"Eric's doing real good. He's getting closer," Mandella said.

Blackdoun heads Festival workers

Led by the Del Mar Derby winner, Blackdoun, several horses with designs on the Autumn Turf Festival recorded workouts over the Hollywood Park turf course on Thursday morning.

The Autumn Turf Festival includes six graded stakes the weekend of Nov. 26-28. Blackdoun is pointing to the Grade 1, $500,000 Hollywood Derby, a 1 1/4-mile race that is also expected to include such top 3-year-old grass runners as Artie Schiller and Timo.

With exercise rider Jose Dominguez aboard, Blackdoun was timed in 1:02.80 for five furlongs. Blackdoun was way out beyond the middle of the course. The rails were set 20 feet from the rail to begin with, and orange cones were placed in the middle of the narrowed course.

Blackdoun's trainer, Julio Canani, said, "I don't know if he wants to run a mile and a quarter," but thought Blackdoun deserved another chance after his tough-luck trip in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

"He almost fell down at the quarter pole," Canani said, adding that Blackdoun was uncomfortable with the yielding turf.

Greek Sun and Fast and Furious, who also are pointing for the Hollywood Derby, each worked six furlongs. Green Sun, trained by Bobby Frankel, was timed in 1:14.40. Fast and Furious, trained by Ron McAnally, went a tick faster, 1:14.20.

"He lost some time after the Del Mar Derby," McAnally said. "He had a bruise to a front foot. He's been training in a bar shoe. He got stopped on the turn in the derby, but he only got beat about a length and a half."

Frankel also worked the 2-year-old filly Louvain, who went a half-mile in 49.80 seconds with jockey Rene Douglas aboard. She is scheduled to run in the Grade 3, $100,000 Miesque Stakes on Nov. 26.

Starlet may be next for Kenza

Kenza, who unleashed a terrific stretch charge to defeat maidens in a one-mile grass race on Wednesday, will move back to the main track for her next start, the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 19, trainer John Shirreffs said Thursday morning.

"Obviously I sort of liked the way she ran," Shirreffs said, smiling. "She's been one of the bright spots all along, all summer."

Wednesday's race was the second start for Kenza. A 2-year-old daughter of Menifee, Kenza was third in a dirt sprint at Del Mar in August. Shirreffs said he thought it was best to point Kenza to the Starlet, rather than come back on turf in the Miesque Stakes, both because of the time between races, and the distance of the Starlet versus the Miesque.

"The Miesque is too quick back, plus it looks like she wants to go farther than a mile," Shirreffs said. "Her first race she ran well, she was just green. She came running at the end. We decided to run her on grass because she has high action. I didn't know if she'd like it or not. And I wanted to keep her separated from another maiden filly I have that I like, Shimmer. Neither has speed. Both want to go two turns.

"Down the backside, I thought Kenza was too far back. I thought, 'Well, let's hope she's got a good kick,' and that's what she did."

Weld sending three from Ireland

Irish trainer Dermot Weld has informed Hollywood Park officials that he will be sending three runners to California for the Autumn Turf Festival.

Weld said he is bringing Miss Mambo for the Grade 1, $500,000 Matriarch Stakes, and Medicinal and Simple Exchange for the Hollywood Derby. Both races are Nov. 28.

Miss Mambo was third in the French 1000 Guineas earlier this year. Simple Exchange won the American Derby and finished fourth in the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park this summer, then returned to Ireland.

Weld won the Matriarch in 2002 with Dress to Thrill.

'Surreal Life' hits the track

Verne Troyer, the actor who portrayed Mini-Me in two "Austin Powers" movies, was among the celebrities at Hollywood Park on Wednesday who were competing on the upcoming television show "The Surreal Life 4."

What was most surreal about Wednesday was seeing the local jockeys towering over Troyer, who is startlingly small.

Troyer was joined by fellow competitors such as the female wrestler Chyna Doll, Christopher Knight, who played Bobby Brady on "The Brady Bunch," and Jane Weidlen, the squeaky-voiced member of the band the Go-Go's.

"The Surreal Life 4," to be broadcast on VH1, will premiere on Jan. 9. The episode recorded Wednesday is for the new season's ninth show, according to Chris Quinn of Hollywood Park's marketing department, who assisted with Wednesday's shoot.

Cedeno returns to California

Veteran jockey Amir Cedeno has returned to ride regularly in Southern California after spending most of the past 13 years riding at Emerald Downs and Sunland Park.

"I want to stay here and see what happens," Cedeno said. "This is the first time I've ridden at Hollywood Park since 1991."

Cedeno is now 41, but said, "I feel 22."

A native of Panama, Cedeno is represented by agent Larry White.

Cal Cup Distaff 1-2-3 may meet in Cat's Cradle

Sunday's $85,000 Cat's Cradle Stakes for older female California-breds is expected to be topped by Our Mango, Western Hemisphere, and Market Garden, the first three finishers from last month's California Cup Distaff at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.

Rene Douglas is scheduled to ride Western Hemisphere, a striking chestnut filly who is a full sister to General Challenge. She has been assigned top weight of 120 pounds for the 7 1/2-furlong race.