03/23/2005 12:00AM

No end seen to record rains


ARCADIA, Calif. - This is a record Santa Anita had no interest in setting.

Yet another rainstorm pummeled the track on Tuesday afternoon, which increased the amount of rainfall at this meet, which began Dec. 26, to a single-season record of 44 1/2 inches, according to Steve Wood, the track superintendent. And there is more on the way. It began to rain lightly on Wednesday afternoon, and more rain was in the forecast for Thursday.

"We just can't beat this rain," said Rick Hammerle, the racing secretary at Santa Anita. "We can't get any momentum going. It interrupts training. You think you have a window, and here it comes again. If we can get 10 days of no rain, I could run a turf festival, and I will."

The latest rainstorm left the main track open only to joggers on Wednesday morning. The turf course, however, was open for works, and trainer Patrick Biancone took the opening as an opportunity to get a scheduled drill into Scipion, his candidate for the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 9.

Working in company, Scipion was timed in 1:28.40 for seven furlongs on a course that looked, and sounded, remarkably firm, considering the previous day's rain. Orange cones, known as dogs, were up.

Scipion most recently finished sixth in the Louisiana Derby.

Scipion worked in company with Salford City, who is scheduled to run in the Grade 2, $150,000 Arcadia Handicap on April 9. Salford City was timed in 1:28.60.

Mix-up over turf work scheduling

Several trainers expressed frustration with Santa Anita's racing office over the scheduling of turf workouts this week. Turf works are usually held on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday. This week, however, it was known for days that rain was scheduled for Tuesday, and some trainers hoped to work their horses on Tuesday morning, before the storm.

Miscommunication, however, prevented that from happening. Hammerle had a rare day off on Tuesday.

"I can't blame Rick. It was one of his few days off," said Ron McAnally, who wanted to work Sweet Return on Tuesday. "But it was my understanding that the course would be open on Tuesday, and someone didn't follow through. You hustle, scratch, and bite people to get them to invest in horses, and then you have to put up with this stuff. It's ridiculous. These horses make everyone's living - mine, the people in the racing office, jockeys, grooms, everyone."

Neil Drysdale said he sent four horses over from his base at Hollywood Park at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, only to find out later that the turf course would not be open.

"We wanted to work," Drysdale said. "Hammerle said we could work on Tuesday, but nobody put the cones out."

Hammerle refused to blame his staff, saying, "We usually work on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday. We are just keeping on the same schedule." But he later called Drysdale to apologize for the miscommunication within his office.

Sweet Return does get in work

McAnally did get that work into Sweet Return on Wednesday. He was timed in 1:02.40 for five furlongs on grass. The work, though, came too late for him to run in the Grade 2, $200,000 San Luis Rey Stakes at 1 1/2 miles on Sunday. Instead, he will await the Arcadia, McAnally said.

"He's missed too much time," McAnally said. "He can't go from a mile race to a mile and a half race after missing some works."

Nakatani sticks with Sweet Catomine

Nick Cosato, the agent for jockey Corey Nakatani, said his rider would stick with the filly Sweet Catomine for the Santa Anita Derby, giving up the mount on Wilko.

Wilko finished fourth in the San Felipe Stakes on Saturday and came out of the race with a fresh quarter crack on his right front hoof. Wilko also is under consideration for the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 16, but Cosato said that Wilko's trainer, Craig Dollase, called on Tuesday and asked who Nakatani would ride if Wilko raced here.

Both Sweet Catomine and Wilko won Breeders' Cup races last fall.

Star Over the Bay topweighted

Star Over the Bay, who most recently won the Sunshine Millions Turf and has won 4 of his last 5 starts, has been assigned top weight of 120 pounds for the San Luis Rey.

Meteor Storm, who won last year's San Luis Rey, is next at 118 pounds.

Others expected for the San Luis Rey include Balestrini, Continental Red, Epicentre, Kurm, and T.H. Approval, and possibly Special Matter and Stanley Park.

* An ankle injury will keep El Roblar from running in Saturday's $75,000 San Pedro Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters, trainer Bruce Headley said.