01/15/2003 1:00AM

Opting for smaller purse, tougher race


ARCADIA, Calif. - Given the option of running for $250,000 against California-breds and Florida-breds, or running for $150,000 against open company, the choice might appear obvious.

But not to trainer Rafael Becerra. The trainer of Crackup - who comes off victories in the California Cup Juvenile and Great State Challenge Juvenile - is looking beyond the immediate riches to potential greater glory in coming months. And that is why he decided on Wednesday morning to run Crackup in Saturday's $150,000 Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita, rather than ship across the country to Gulfstream Park to run one week later in the $250,000 Ocala Stud Dash, part of the Sunshine Millions program.

The Santa Catalina is 1 1/16 miles, while the Ocala Stud Dash is seven furlongs, and Becerra said that was an added factor in deciding to go in the Santa Catalina.

"I want to run him two turns," Becerra said Wednesday morning. "I think it's better. We want to find out what kind of horse we've got."

The Cal Cup Juvenile, run over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita during the Oak Tree meeting, was the only time Crackup has gone two turns. He has won three times in five starts, and has finished in the money in every race.

The Santa Catalina, a Grade 2 race that serves as the first major prep this meet for the Santa Anita Derby, is expected to draw a large field when entries are taken Thursday morning. In addition to Crackup, who will be ridden by Tyler Baze, the field is expected to include D's Bertrando, Domestic Dispute (David Flores riding), Our Bobby V. (Laffit Pincay Jr.), Robledo (Julie Krone), Scrimshaw (Alex Solis), Singletary (Patrick Valenzuela), Storm Gulch (Tony Farina), and possibly Nation Wide News (Corey Nakatani).

Storm Gulch, who has only a six-furlong maiden win at Keeneland in two starts, will be making his first start since being acquired by owner Michael Tabor and trainer Patrick Biancone. Storm Gulch breezed a half-mile in 49.20 seconds Wednesday morning.

"He went in company because he can be lazy," Biancone said.

Got Koko heads El Encino

Got Koko, whose victory in the La Brea Stakes makes her the only filly eligible to sweep the La Canada Series, will try to win the second leg of that series when she runs in Sunday's $150,000 El Encino Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.

Got Koko breezed five furlongs in 1:02 Wednesday morning for trainer Bruce Headley. She will be ridden by Solis.

Her rivals are expected to include Adoration (Valenzuela), Bare Necessities (Jose Valdivia Jr.), Bella Bellucci (Mike Smith), Glia (Victor Espinoza), Ile de France (Krone), Ms Louisett (Kent Desormeaux), and possibly Erica's Smile.

Puxa Saco tunes up for Santa Ynez

Puxa Saco is unbeaten around one turn. Her only loss came going two turns. That is why trainer Jenine Sahadi kept her out of last month's Hollywood Starlet and awaited Monday's $150,000 Santa Ynez Stakes at seven furlongs.

In preparation for the Grade 2 Santa Ynez, Puxa Saco breezed five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Wednesday with Mike Smith, her regular rider.

"She was just cruising," Sahadi said. "Another horse came up outside her, and she wouldn't let her by. She's a saucy little thing. It's amazing that a horse that's that sweet can be that salty when she's running."

Sahadi said Puxa Saco suffered a quarter crack in a hoof "three or four weeks ago," when the weather alternated between rain and then very dry conditions. She said the crack was patched by farrier Wes Champagne, and that Puxa Saco lost about one week of training.

"I'm not crazy about losing a week, but I don't think it's going to be that big a deal," Sahadi said.

Puxa Saco's rivals are expected to include Elloluv (Valenzuela), the Starlet winner, along with No Love Song (Martin Pedroza), Watching You (Desormeaux), and possibly Himalayan (Nakatani).

Ted West, who trains Himalayan with his son, Ted H. West, said he was also considering running Himalayan in a race at Golden Gate Fields, but said "there's a 75-percent chance we'll stay here and run."

* David Copperfield worked five furlongs in 1:03.40 on Wednesday, but trainer John Shirreffs said he was still not sure if David Copperfield would compete in Monday's $150,00 San Marcos Stakes. The 1 1/4-mile grass race field is expected to include Grammarian (Valdivia), Harrisand (Valenzuela), Johar (Solis), National Anthem (Flores), T.H. Lear (Espinoza), and The Tin Man (Smith).

* Whywhywhy, preparing for his 3-year-old debut for Biancone, looked extremely sharp breezing a half-mile in 47.20 seconds. Also on the work tab was Pleasantly Perfect, the winner of the Goodwood Stakes, who worked a mile in 1:39.20 for trainer Richard Mandella.

* At Hollywood Park, Hollywood Turf Cup winner Sligo Bay worked six furlongs in 1:12.80 for trainer Beau Greely.

* A memorial service for trainer Vance Longden will be held at Santa Anita's Clocker's Corner at 10 a.m. on Sunday morning. Longden, son of Hall of Fame jockey John Longden, died last week from cancer.