02/14/2005 12:00AM

Nakatani didn't take long to get back in loop


ARCADIA, Calif. - In the 10 days since Corey Nakatani returned from a 30-day suspension, he won a Grade 1 for 3-year-old fillies, began to reassert himself on the jockeys' roster at Santa Anita, and emerged unscathed from a frightening spill.

"That's the ups and downs of the game," he said Sunday.

Saturday had both for Nakatani. He rode Sharp Lisa to a win in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita. The victory was his second of the day and came 90 minutes after he was thrown from Tempest, who broke down severely in a sprint for claimers. Nakatani was not injured.

Sunday, Nakatani rode the first-time starter Wooden Ticket to a win in a seven-furlong maiden race, the fourth win of his comeback. Wooden Ticket raced for Marty Wygod, also the owner of the 2004 champion 2-year-old filly Sweet Catomine, whom Nakatani rode to three stakes wins last year.

Nakatani did not ride Sweet Catomine in her last start, a win in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes last month, because he was serving a suspension for causing interference in a turf race last March. The penalty did not begin until Dec. 26, after Nakatani had exhausted his appeals. Nakatani returned to riding on Feb. 4 and won aboard his first mount.

Nakatani, 34, said he would like to regain the mount on Sweet Catomine, who is scheduled to make her next start in the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks on March 13. After that, her schedule may include a start in the Santa Anita Derby against males April 9. That is the same day Sharp Lisa could run in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.

Add that Nakatani is the rider of Wilko, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last October, and Nakatani has a crowded list of top 3-year-olds. Wilko is expected to return in the Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita March 5.

Eventually, some of those 3-year-olds could start on the same day at different tracks or pop up in the same race. It could lead to tough decisions for Nakatani, who has yet to win the Kentucky Derby.

"Anytime you have that kind of decision to make, it's a good position to be in," Nakatani said.

Rain could delay Roman Ruler's training

Roman Ruler, scratched from Sunday's San Vicente Stakes because of a quarter crack on his left front foot, faces an interrupted training schedule if the forecast for rain is accurate. Rain is in the forecast from Wednesday through Friday.

"As long as the track is wet, I won't train him," Baffert said.

Baffert said last Friday that Roman Ruler's month-old quarter crack had flared. Still, Baffert said he was tempted as late as Saturday to try Roman Ruler in the San Vicente.

"I was debating whether to run him yesterday, but I decided I better not," Baffert said.

Baffert won the San Vicente with Fusaichi Rock Star.

Baffert did not speculate on when Roman Ruler would be able to return.

Baffert scratched Pussycat Doll from Saturday's Las Virgenes Stakes because of the wet-fast conditions. Pussycat Doll was second to Sweet Catomine in the Santa Ysabel.

"I didn't want to take a chance on that track," Baffert said.

Borrego eyes Santa Anita 'Cap

Trainer Beau Greely said that Borrego, who finished second in the Super Derby and Arkansas Derby last year, will be pointed for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap March 5 after winning an allowance race last Friday.

The allowance race marked the first victory in over a year for Borrego, a 4-year-old colt who was winless in eight starts last year.

Greely said Borrego could be sent to the New Orleans Handicap on March 12, but said he was leaning toward the Big Cap.

Other expected starters for the Big Cap are Rock Hard Ten and Imperialism, the first two finishers in the Strub Stakes on Feb. 5; and Lundy's Liability, Truly a Judge, and Congrats, the first three finishers in the San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 6.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said that Grand Reward, the winner of an allowance race Saturday, would be nominated.

Royally Chosen out with foot ailment

Royally Chosen is out of training with a bruised foot, trainer Bruce Headley said. Royally Chosen was expected to start in Sunday's Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap. She made her last start in the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap on Jan. 30, finishing fourth.

Headley said he was unsure how long Royally Chosen would be out of training.

"It could be a week, it could be three weeks," Headley said.

* Jockeys David Flores, Alex Solis, and Jose Valdivia Jr. will be gone from Wednesday through Friday to ride the King's Cup Stakes on Friday night in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The trio travels back to California on Saturday, but Flores said they may not return in time to ride Saturday's program.