10/15/2002 11:00PM

Is New Mexico star ready for prime time?

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The $75,000 Sunny Slope Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday will not be confused with a top-class race for 2-year-olds. Many of the circuit's top 2-year-olds are traveling to the Breeders' Cup at Arlington Park on Oct. 26, leaving the six-furlong Sunny Slope to lesser horses who are trying to develop into something.

For trainer Rafael Becerra and owner Stanley Fulton, the Sunny Slope is the ideal place for Roll Hennessy Roll to make his California debut. Unbeaten in three starts in New Mexico, Roll Hennessy Roll has been with Becerra since Sept. 13, having previously been trained by the late Johnie Jamison.

In New Mexico, Roll Hennessy Roll won a maiden race at The Downs at Albuquerque and two stakes at Ruidoso Downs - the Los Ninos Stakes on July 28 and the Ruidoso Thoroughbred Futurity, the meeting's top race for 2-year-old Thoroughbreds. Purchased for $52,000 as a yearling at Keeneland in October, 2001, Roll Hennessy Roll has earned $55,056.

"We've got to go and find out what he is," Becerra said. "Just to look at him, I think he has a lot of class. His last work was a super workout. He came up very strong."

If he runs well in the Sunny Slope, Roll Hennessy Roll will give Becerra and Fulton the confidence to keep him on the Southern California circuit.

"It's a good spot to try him and then find out the next step," Becerra said. "The distance is perfect for him. I think it will be a wide-open race."

The role of favorite will fall to Omega Code, if trainer Wesley Ward decides to run him. Omega Code won the $102,000 Ron and Jess Cloud Memorial Stakes at the Big Fresno Fair Oct. 5. Omega Code won that six-furlong race by seven lengths in track-record time, 1:07.70.

Omega Code has been favored in all three of his starts, including a runner-up finish to Bull Market in a maiden race at Del Mar on July 24. Bull Market is bound for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile following a second in the Norfolk Stakes here on Oct. 5.

Wednesday, Ward said he was "90 percent" certain that Omega Code would start.

Kudos back in training

Kudos, the winner of the Grade 1 Oaklawn Handicap in April, has resumed training with Richard Mandella following a summer-long break.

Considered a rising star in the handicap division in the spring, Kudos went to the sidelines after a bone chip was found in an ankle. He has been galloping for the last month, according to Dot Ingordo, the racing manager for owners Jerry and Ann Moss.

Trained by Richard Mandella, Kudos won the San Marino Handicap and finished third in the Santa Anita Handicap earlier this year.

According to Ingordo, Kudos is being considered for the $100,000 Native Diver Handicap over 1 1/8 miles at Hollywood Park on Dec. 14, although his comeback may wait until the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting.

"We had to give him the time he needed," Ingordo said.

Mandella could have a powerful hand for the handicap division next year. Pleasantly Perfect, who will miss the Breeders' Cup Classic next week because he bled in the Goodwood Handicap on Oct. 6, will be given a month off before being pointed for the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting. His long-range goals are the Santa Anita Handicap or Dubai World Cup in March.

Because Pleasantly Perfect bled from the lungs following a workout in February, he was considered a two-time bleeder under Illinois rules and cannot start for 30 days. Illinois rules have precedence over the rules of other states because the Breeders' Cup is being run there.

Nakatani's return uncertain

Corey Nakatani is off his mounts through Friday due to the lingering effects of a back sprain suffered in a two-horse spill on Sunday. Nakatani was unseated from Sing Because in the fourth race and fell heavily.

"I think I'll take it easy for the next few days," he said. "I sprained my back. I'm feeling better."

Nakatani declined to estimate when he would return, but said he would ride in the Breeders' Cup. Nakatani, who attended workouts at Santa Anita on Wednesday, was taken off his two mounts on Thursday and was not named in Friday's entries.

* Jockey Kent Desormeaux will not ride until Saturday, at the earliest, to be with his son Jacob, who was scheduled to undergo surgery on his right ear on Thursday. Jacob Desormeaux, 3, was born deaf, but had a cochlear implant inserted in his skull two years ago to aid his hearing. Kent Desormeaux said that Jacob needed his fifth surgery because of recent complications.