01/24/2002 12:00AM

Much-traveled Snow Ridge stays put


ARCADIA, Calif. - After a whirlwind tour of many of the nation's top racetracks in the second half of 2001, the familiarity of Santa Anita may help Snow Ridge win his second consecutive stakes in Sunday's $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap.

From late August, when he won an allowance race at Saratoga, to an upset win at 18-1 in the Grade 3 El Conejo Handicap at Santa Anita on Jan. 1, Snow Ridge never ran at the same track twice. He ran at seven separate venues, winning four times and finishing fifth in the other three starts.

Owned by Oakbrook Farm, Snow Ridge did not face the nation's toughest sprinters in 2001, but he put together five wins in 11 starts for the year. This year could be a breakthrough season for Snow Ridge, trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.

"When he puts it all together, he can be a nice horse," Lukas said.

A 4-year-old, Snow Ridge is a top contender in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes, at six furlongs. In the El Conejo, at 5 1/2 furlongs, he stalked the pace for the first three furlongs and pulled away late to win by a 3 1/2 lengths.

The Grade 3 El Conejo was Snow Ridge's first stakes win since the Grade 2 Kentucky Cup Sprint last September at Turfway Park. The victory convinced Lukas that Snow Ridge does not need the lead to win, an important attribute since there will be plenty of speed in the Palos Verdes.

"I think he'll be all right if he doesn't have the lead," Lukas said.

Also likely in the Palos Verdes are: Ceeband, Explicit, Men's Exclusive, Silky Sweep, and Squirtle Squirt, the winner of the 2001 Breeders' Cup Sprint. The presence of Men's Exclusive and Squirtle Squirt will ensure a fast pace. Snow Ridge could join them or take a stalking position. To Lukas, it is not a major concern.

"We'll let him run his race," Lukas said. "He's obviously quick."

Plans for Caller One and Kona Gold

While Sunday's race is expected to draw a strong field, it is missing the two leading California sprinters of 2001 - Caller One and Kona Gold.

Caller One is being pointed to defend his title in the $2 million Golden Shaheen at Nad al Sheba in Dubai on March 23. Trainer James Chapman plans to train Caller One, a 5-year-old, up to the race, which is run over a straightaway six furlongs.

Caller One has not started since finishing third as the favorite in the Vernon Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park on Dec. 2.

Meanwhile, Kona Gold has rejoined trainer Bruce Headley's Santa Anita stable following a break at Headley's nearby home, which has facilities for lay-ups and some training.

Headley said the 8-year-old Kona Gold arrived on Monday and may be ready for a start in the $200,000 Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap over 6 1/2 furlongs on March 30. "It will be close," he said.

Headley said Kona Gold has thrived during the break. A winner of 12 of 23 starts and $2,069,364, Kona Gold won three stakes last year but lost three starts in the fall.

"He's put on weight, he's relaxed, and he's hairy," Headley said.

McNally baffled by Lovellon's injury

Lovellon, unraced since last March, faces an uncertain future after developing an injury earlier this week that has baffled trainer Ron McAnally.

The 6-year-old Lovellon underwent X-rays on a hock on Wednesday, but they were inconclusive.

"It's something else, and I don't know what it is," McAnally said, adding that Lovellon has been restricted to her stall because of lameness. He said she would be taken for a nuclear scan when she is more comfortable. Nuclear scans are able to detect more sensitive injuries that are not seen by typical X-rays.

"Hopefully, something will surface," McAnally said.

Owned by Gary Tanaka, Lovellon has won 4 of 13 starts, including the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap last February. She finished sixth in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap last March, her most recent start.