08/26/2004 12:00AM

Nakatani awaits judge's ruling on suspension


DEL MAR, Calif. - Jockey Corey Nakatani appeared before an administrative law judge on Wednesday in an appeal of a 30-day suspension issued last March at Santa Anita for causing interference that resulted in a spill.

In a hearing that lasted nearly three hours, attorney Donald Calabria, representing Nakatani, argued before administrative law judge James Ahler that the jockey did not maliciously bump the horse alongside of him and cause jockey Javier Santiago to be unseated from his mount.

Steward Tom Ward, who issued the suspension at Santa Anita along with stewards Ingrid Fermin and Pete Pedersen, said Nakatani was given the extensive suspension because "it was an unwarranted riding infraction."

Ahler will issue a written opinion to the California Horse Racing Board, which can accept, deny, or modify the decision. If Nakatani loses his appeal to the racing board, he could take the matter to court. The matter is unlikely to be addressed by the board until the fall.

The incident that resulted in the suspension occurred on the backstretch of a one-mile turf race for $50,000 claimers. Nakatani was aboard Mister Cosmi, who struck the rail after he was crowded by Terrifying, who was ridden by Javier Santiago.

Nakatani and Santiago appeared to exchange words before Mister Cosmi then drifted out and bumped Terrifying near the half-mile pole. Terrifying stumbled and unseated Santiago, who was not injured in the fall.

Mister Cosmi was disqualified from eighth and placed last.

Thursday, Nakatani said he shouted "Hey, hey. Give me some room" after his horse hit the rail. He said he was angling out for more room behind the front-runners when his mount, Mister Cosmi, lurched to the right and collided with Terrifying.

Santiago testified that Nakatani shouted insults to him after their horses made initial contacts.

"When that happened I was trying to go on with the race," Santiago said. "He insulted me and then he tried to push me out of the race. He pulled his horse toward me and my horse got trapped in other horses' legs."

Nakatani disputed that he intended to hurt Santiago.

"I was upset with what happened," Nakatani said. "That doesn't mean I'm going to try and drop somebody."

During Thursday's hearing, trainer Mike Mitchell testified that Mister Cosmi suffered a bowed tendon in the race, though he was only able to speculate that the injury occurred on the backstretch.

Mitchell claimed Mister Cosmi in the race. The horse remains sidelined.

In concluding arguments, Calabria noted that the 30-day suspension was more extreme than the three, five, or seven-day suspension typically issued by stewards at Southern California Thoroughbred tracks.

Hendricks gets first-hand view of winner

Six weeks after a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the waist down, trainer Dan Hendricks had his first winner on Wednesday when Littlebitofzip pulled an upset in the fourth race at Del Mar.

The win came with Hendricks's 20th starter of the meeting, and Wednesday was one of the few times he has come to the racetrack since the accident. Currently undergoing rehabilitation, Hendricks has been to the barn a few times in the afternoon. He attended the races briefly last weekend.

Littlebitofzip was Hendricks's second runner on Wednesday, preceded by Bellarama's sixth-place finish in the second race.

During Littlebitofzip's race, Hendricks positioned his wheelchair in front of a television in racing secretary Tom Robbins's office.

After Littlebitofzip's four-length win, Hendricks did not go to the winner's circle.

Negotiating his way through the crowd and down a wood-chip path to the winner's circle did not appeal to him. Hendricks was content watching from the racing office.

"I figured today was a good day to come out," Hendricks said.

In the minutes after the race, Hendricks, 45, shook hands with trainers and passers-by, many of whom he had not seen since before the accident on July 7.

Littlebitofzip, the first winner for freshman sire Littlebitlively, was making his fourth career start in the one-mile turf race. Purchased by Cecil Peacock for $30,000 last March, Littlebitofzip ($32.60) led throughout under Alex Bisono.

"We didn't give anything for him, and we didn't give up on him," Hendricks said of the colt. "This will get our barn going."

Hendricks said he is anxious to resume working in the morning and overseeing the stable. When the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting starts in late September, he expects to be there every day.

"I'll slowly get back into it," he said. "In another week or two, I can start coming out every day," he said. "I'll get in the groove by Oak Tree."

Inspiring gets two-month rest

Inspiring, the impressive winner of the Sorrento Stakes on Aug. 7, will be out of training for 60 days because of sore shins, trainer Bob Baffert said. Earlier this week, Baffert said that Inspiring would not start in Saturday's $250,000 Del Mar Debutante.

The injury will also prevent Inspiring from starting in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30. Baffert said she will be pointed for a 3-year-old campaign next year.

"She's pretty fast," he said. "I've got to take care of her."

Goodwood next target for Truly a Judge

Truly a Judge ended an 18-month losing streak with a hard-fought win in a $70,000 allowance race on Wednesday, a victory that could lead to a start in the $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap over 1 1/8 miles at Santa Anita on Oct. 2.

Ridden by Nakatani, Truly a Judge dueled with Gondolieri through quick fractions of 22.39 and 45.25 seconds, and overcame a half-length deficit in midstretch to win by that margin. Truly a Judge ($14.20) finished a mile in 1:36.14.

"It was a great ride by Nakatani," trainer David Bernstein said. "He put him right in the race."

The victory was Truly a Judge's first win since an optional claimer at Santa Anita in February 2003. Since then, Truly a Judge has placed in five stakes, including a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Seabiscuit Handicap at Bay Meadows in May 2003.

A winner of 9 of 38 starts and $477,531, Truly a Judge finished seventh in the 2002 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap, losing by 8 3/4 lengths to Pleasantly Perfect.

This year, it is unlikely that Pleasantly Perfect, who won the $1 million Pacific Classic last weekend, will start in the Goodwood. He will instead go straight to the Breeders' Cup Classic at Lone Star Park. This is good news to Bernstein.

"It will be a different kind of group," Bernstein said of the Goodwood.

Chandtrue on target for Del Mar Futurity

Chandtrue, unbeaten in four starts, including three stakes, worked six furlongs in 1:13.20 on Thursday. Trained by Bob Hess Jr., Chandtrue will make his next start in the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity over seven furlongs on Sept. 8, the closing day of the meeting.

Chandtrue has not started since winning the Hollywood Juvenile Championship over six furlongs at Hollywood Park on July 18. The win gave him a sweep of that track's stakes for 2-year-olds, which included the Willard Proctor Memorial and Haggin stakes.