11/25/2003 12:00AM

No shortage of derby entrants


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Think you can't have too much of a good thing? Think again.

Southern California racing lately has been plagued by short fields, but there are so many 3-year-olds being considered for Sunday's Grade 1, $600,000 Hollywood Derby that several horses might be excluded from the field.

As of Tuesday, 17 horses were being pointed to the 1 1/4-mile turf race at Hollywood Park. A maximum of 14 can run in the race, so if all 17 enter, there would be three exclusions: Buckland Manor, Darinski, and Blue Blood Boot, in that order, according to Hollywood Park racing secretary Martin Panza.

The tiebreaker in the case of an overflow of entries in the Hollywood Derby is a three-tiered process that factors in victories in graded stakes, in-the-money finishes in graded stakes, and, finally, overall earnings in 2003. Buckland Manor, a recent allowance winner at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, has earned $107,520 this year, which puts him behind the $115,590 earned by Willard Straight, who is currently 14th on the list.

The top 14 are Alberto Giacometti, Bis Repetitas, Californian, Fairly Ransom, Fortune Writers, Kicken Kris, Senor Swinger, Sigint, Sign of The Wolf, Silver Tree, Stanley Park, Sweet Return, Urban King, and Willard Straight.

Willard Straight, who flew here on Monday from New York, had a light day of training Tuesday morning. Willard Straight, trained by Todd Pletcher, comes off a victory in the King Cugat at Aqueduct and will be making his third start of the month.

"Todd had this race in the back of his mind the whole time," Michael McCarthy, an assistant trainer to Pletcher, said Tuesday morning. "He took in everything here this morning. His last race was impressive. He should be competitive against these."

Kicken Kris, the winner of the Secretariat Stakes and Lawrence Realization this year, and Fairly Ransom, the Del Mar Derby winner, are expected to be the top two choices in the Hollywood Derby.

No blinkers for Musical Chimes

Musical Chimes turned in a sensational effort when she finished second in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes, her first start in this country. She added blinkers for her subsequent start, the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, and it all went wrong.

"It was a combination of things," her trainer, Neil Drysdale, said Tuesday morning. "With the blinkers, she broke very fast, and then she couldn't get covered up, and with the blinkers on and not getting covered up, it made her rank."

So, Drysdale said he will remove the blinkers for Sunday's Grade 1, $500,000 Matriarch Stakes. Edgar Prado will have the mount for the one-mile turf race, Drysdale said.

Drysdale will also send out Magic Mission, who will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux.

The remainder of the Matriarch field is expected to be Acago, Belleski, Chopinina, Dancal, Dedication, Dress to Thrill, Etoile Montante, Heat Haze, Island Fashion, Maiden Tower, and Mer de Corail, and possibly Blind Ambition, Garden in the Rain, and Miss Terrible. As with the derby, a maximum of 14 can run.

Dancal is a Pletcher-trained stablemate of Willard Straight. She has won twice in three starts since arriving from the United Arab Emirates, and most recently won the Violet Handicap at The Meadowlands.

"She came out of the Violet in good order," McCarthy said. "She's been a pleasant surprise since we've gotten her. She's a nice filly, all racehorse. The distance of the race is perfect. This is her swan song. She's going to Keeneland after this to be sold."

Maiden Tower, a 3-year-old, was a narrow loser in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland in her last start. In the French 1000 Guineas in May, she finished second, behind Musical Chimes but in front of Etoile Montante. The Queen Elizabeth II was her first start in more than four months. After that race, she was transferred from her French trainer, Henri-Alex Pantall, to Eoin Harty.

"She's doing really well," said Alex Hassinger Jr., Harty's top assistant. "She's a very nice filly. She's going to have a big future."

No coupling in derby, Matriarch

All runners in the derby and Matriarch will race as separate betting interests, similar to the Breeders' Cup races. Hollywood Park petitioned the California Horse Racing Board to waive the standard rule coupling horses with common ownership, and the waiver was granted on Tuesday by Roy Wood, the executive director of the board.

The race in which the waiver will have the biggest impact is the Matriarch. Etoile Montante and Heat Haze should be among the top choices in the race. Both are owned by the Juddmonte Farms of Prince Khalid Abdullah. In last week's Hollywood Turf Cup, horses from Juddmonte were coupled for wagering purposes, but they will race as separate interests in the Matriarch.

Add Lydgate to small Turf Express

Lydgate, a maiden winner in his fourth lifetime start, Nov. 7 on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita, will move right into a stakes race in Friday's Grade 3, $150,000 Hollywood Turf Express at 5 1/2 furlongs.

The Turf Express field is expected to be relatively small. Scheduled to run are Full Moon Madness, Golden Arrow, Joe's Son Joey, and King Robyn, and possibly Abderian and Thunder Bullet.

King Robyn, the probable favorite, won the Morvich Handicap at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting on Oct. 24.

Very Vegas going for fourth straight

Very Vegas will seek her fourth straight victory in Friday's Grade 3, $100,000 Miesque Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at one mile on turf.

Very Vegas scored a front-running victory in the Bay Meadows Lassie in her last start on Nov. 2. She has yet to race on turf.

Her rivals include two fillies who won maiden races on the turf at Santa Anita - Cousineau and Mambo Slew - along with Amorama, Shadow of Mine, and Ticker Tape, and possibly Heir Today and Letsimpress.

Terroplane works for Generous

European import Terroplane worked five furlongs on the Hollywood turf course in 1:01.40 on Tuesday in preparation for Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Generous Stakes for 2-year-olds at one mile on turf.

Terroplane won twice in four starts in France. He is one of several Europeans who have arrived for the Generous, including Castledale, Dealer Choice, Gwaihir, and Soonest. Castledale had an eye-catching workout on Sunday for trainer Jeff Mullins.

Others scheduled to run are Atten Hut, Borrego, Kissin Ty, Lucky Pulpit, Presumption, Rush Into Heaven, and St Averil, who was a fast winner in his debut at Santa Anita on Nov. 9.

* The field for Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Citation Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on turf is expected to include Captain Squire, Century City, Irish Warrior, Mister Acpen, Nicobar, and Redattore.

* Ten Most Wanted, winner of the Travers Stakes and Super Derby, has returned to Hollywood Park after a brief freshening. During his first day back on Tuesday, he walked around the stable area with an exercise rider on his back, while trainer Wally Dollase accompanied them astride a pony. Ten Most Wanted is expected to return to action in January in Santa Anita's San Fernando Stakes.