03/29/2007 12:00AM

Medici Code gets to test best in the West


ARCADIA, Calif. - At a glance, Medici Code would seem severely overmatched in a race such as the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7.

Imported from England in late February, Medici Code has won his last three starts, all on England's all-weather circuit. Those races came against opposition of lower quality than he will meet in the derby, and none of them was a graded stakes.

In the Santa Anita Derby over 1 1/8 miles, Medici Code will give new owners Bill and Donna Herrick and trainer Darrell Vienna a quick answer of where he belongs among California's 3-year-olds.

A big performance could result in a trip to the Kentucky Derby. This weekend, Herrick and Vienna said they will pay the $6,000 late nomination fee to make Medici Code eligible for the Triple Crown, just in case he belongs at that level. The supplement is a small price compared to the approximately $585,000 they paid for Medici Code in a private transaction earlier this year.

"We know that he's a longshot," Vienna said. "Mr. Herrick is not a novice to this game. He knows the risk."

Medici Code essentially has had two careers. He ran poorly in three starts at 2, was gelded over the winter and has won three starts this year.

He won a one-mile handicap at Southwell on Jan. 23 and won a handicap over 1 1/16 miles at Wolverhampton on Jan. 28. He won again at Southwell on Feb. 1, taking a one-mile handicap by five lengths. The race comment described his performance as winning "in a canter."

"Is that a comment on him or the horses behind him?" Vienna asked on Thursday. "He raced against moderate and easier company. He's done it easily, but this is a different game. He's done everything we've asked and maybe a little more."

Medici Code worked six furlongs alone in 1:14.20 on Santa Anita's training track on Thursday, although Vienna timed him in 1:13.

"I think he has a great way of going," said Bill Herrick, who attended the workout. "He'll get the distance, but whether he's good enough is a question. He won without any effort."

Jorge Chavez will ride Medici Code in the Santa Anita Derby, which has nine probable starters, including Black Seventeen, Boutrous, Bwana Bull, King of the Roxy, Level Red, Liquidity, Sam P., and Tiago.

Sea of Pleasure sets two-furlong record

The first-time starter Sea of Pleasure lowered the track record for two furlongs in Thursday's first race with an electrifying four-length win in 20.78 seconds.

The time lowered the track record of 21.09 seconds that was set by Whatsthenameman in 2004.

Santa Anita runs two-furlong races for 2-year-olds in March and April.

Sea of Pleasure was ridden by Michael Baze. He took the lead at the start and quickly pulled clear. The colt is owned by a five-person partnership and trained by Shane Chipman.

Chipman is part of the B.C.3 Thoroughbreds pinhooking operation, which sells 2-year-olds at Barretts. Sea of Pleasure was based at Barretts before the March sale of 2-year-olds in training on March 20 but was not offered in the sale.

"We compared him to a lot of horses we sold at the sale," Chipman said. "He's a nice horse."

Sea of Pleasure will be pointed for the $75,000 Willard Proctor Memorial Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs on May 27.

Declan's Moon remains an enigma

Declan's Moon, the champion 2-year-old male of 2004, breezed six furlongs in 1:12.40 at Hollywood Park on Thursday, preparing for a comeback following two disappointing losses in January.

Working in company, Declan's Moon recorded the third-quickest of 24 recorded works at the distance, and left trainer Ron Ellis impressed. "We've been working him with another horse and that's why he's been going so fast," Ellis said.

Ellis has been impressed with Declan's Moon workouts in the recent past, only to be disappointed by his race results.

After winning his first five starts in 2004-05, Declan's Moon is winless in his last five starts. Since finishing fifth in an allowance race at Golden Gate Fields in January, Declan's Moon has undergone "every test imaginable" to check for soundness and his blood quality, Ellis said.

Declan's Moon is being prepared for a comeback at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting.

"Don't ask me to predict what he'll do," Ellis said. "I don't know what to expect."

He is owned by Mace and Samantha Siegel.

Magnificience works fastest of 12

Preparing for Sunday's $100,000 Santa Paula Stakes, Magnificience worked three furlongs in 33.80 seconds at Santa Anita on Thursday, the fastest of 12 recorded works at the distance.

Trained by Bruce Headley, Magnificience is making her stakes debut in the Santa Paula, which is run over 6 1/2 furlongs for 3-year-old fillies.

She won her only start, a maiden race over 6 1/2 furlongs, by 6 1/2 lengths on March 11.