03/15/2002 12:00AM

Medaglia d'Oro gets thrown into deep water


ARCADIA, Calif. - Medaglia d'Oro has run twice. He lost a maiden race at Turfway Park. He won a maiden race at Oaklawn Park. That's it. Yet because he now resides in the white-hot barn of trainer Bobby Frankel, he will be given more than passing notice when he faces Siphonic and U S S Tinosa in Sunday's $250,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.

Not that Frankel thinks he's going to knock off Siphonic. He would have settled for an entry-level allowance race, but none was scheduled when he needed it.

"I wanted to run him in an allowance race, but they force you into stakes here," Frankel said Friday morning from his barn at Hollywood Park. "If I think he's going to run in the Kentucky Derby, the timing means he has to run now. Hopefully he'll run a decent race. I think he's got a lot of talent."

Medaglia d'Oro was purchased privately by Frankel on behalf of owner Ed Gann after beating maidens at Oaklawn on Feb. 9. Frankel and Gann also have the 3-year-old Labamta Babe, who beat Siphonic in the Santa Catalina Stakes on Jan. 19, but Labamta Babe subsequently was injured and is off the Derby trail. Medaglia d'Oro got a Beyer Speed Figure of 101 for his victory against maidens, but he has yet to race beyond six furlongs. He has been in Frankel's barn for three weeks

Above Perfection one to catch

The speedy Above Perfection, who outdueled Kalookan Queen in the Grade 3 Las Flores Handicap here on Feb. 23, should be a heavy favorite against five other California-bred female sprinters in Sunday's supporting feature, the $100,000 Irish O'Brien Stakes.

The Irish O'Brien, a tradition on St. Patrick's Day, is named in honor of a popular mare who was the queen of the hillside turf course in the 1980's. Sunday's race is slated for about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf, but if it rains, the race could move to the main track. Regardless, Above Perfection will be difficult to beat. She has won 6 of 8 starts, with one of her losses a neck defeat to Xtra Heat in Belmont's Prioress Stakes.

Fair Apache, who has run well on the hillside course, has sharp speed and figures to be closest to Above Perfection early. The late threat should be Jeweled Pirate, who won the California Cup Distaff on the hillside course on Nov. 3, but flopped as the favorite when racing on dirt in the Survive Stakes on Jan. 2.

Baze presented with Woolf Award

Jockey Russell Baze was honored as the winner of the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award between races Friday. Instead of the usual trophy, Baze was presented with a plaque by Jack Liebau, Santa Anita's president and general manager, during a brief ceremony.

The Woolf Award usually is conducted before a large crowd, and numerous past winners are present, but because Friday's ceremony was not announced until Wednesday, it was held before a sparse weekday crowd.

Earlier on the card, Baze won the second race on favored Sempai. It was a rare Southern California appearance for Baze, who rides regularly in northern California. He was at Santa Anita because of the Woolf Award ceremony.

Royal Gem may try dirt

Royal Gem, who won the $80,100 second division of Thursday's Academy Road Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf, could be given a chance to try the dirt in at least one of his next two starts, according to his trainer, Frankel.

Frankel said Royal Gem might make his next start in the Transylvania Stakes on turf at Keeneland, then come back in the $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes on dirt on April 20. He also is considering the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, and Wood Memorial at Aqueduct - both $750,000 races on April 13 - for Royal Gem's next race.

"He's obviously got a lot of talent, but he's still very green," Frankel said. "He trains good on the dirt, so maybe I'll take a shot."

Royal Gem ($5) rallied from last in the nine-horse field under jockey Alex Solis to win by one length in 1:35.64 for one mile on firm turf.

Mountain Rage, who won the first division of the Academy Road, will remain on the turf. "Wherever there's green, green grass," said his trainer, Bob Baffert. Mountain Rage is owned by George Jacobs and Baffert's fiancee, Jill Moss.

* Came Home was taken to Santa Anita's equine clinic for a nuclear scan on Friday morning. Because of the time needed to conduct the procedure, Came Home was not scheduled to be released from the clinic until Saturday morning, and test results would not be known until then, trainer Paco Gonzalez said.

* Fonz's, who disappointed in the San Rafael Stakes in his 3-year-old debut, worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 at Hollywood Park on Friday morning. He is scheduled to make his next start in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 6.

* Affluent, tuning up for next month's Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park, worked six furlongs in 1:11.80 Friday morning at Santa Anita.