02/05/2004 1:00AM

Outside post gives Hosco options


ARCADIA, Calif. - Hosco will have to slow down to preserve his unbeaten record when he starts in Saturday's $150,000 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita.

In three starts, has won an $80,000 claimer for maidens, an optional claimer, and the Grade 3 San Miguel Stakes, all over six furlongs.

In the San Miguel, Hosco set a remarkable pace of 21.03 and 43.80 seconds before winning by a length over Roi Charmant.

A similar display of speed may make it difficult for Hosco to last the seven furlongs of the San Vicente.

Hosco's style has been a surprise to owners Rod and Lorraine Rodriguez and trainer Doug O'Neill.

"He doesn't act like a sprint-only kind of horse," O'Neill said. "He's built like a world-class sprinter but travels like he can go two turns."

O'Neill said Hosco was sent to the front after drawing the rail in each of his first three starts.

"We knew we didn't have a lot of angles," he said.

In the Grade 2 San Vicente, Hosco drew the outside post in a field of six. That should give Tyler Baze, who was aboard for Hosco's last two races, options besides sending the horse to the front.

Hosco is the only stakes winner in the field. Four of the other five runners are maiden winners.

The exception is Imperialism, a Calder shipper who is making his first start for trainer Kristin Mulhall. Imperialism was fifth in the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby on turf in his last start and a game second in the Mecke Stakes on turf Nov. 29. All three of Imperialism's wins have come on dirt.

Number Juan, Teton Forest, and Wimplestiltskin each is making his first start following a win in a maiden race. Wimplestiltskin finished second in a maiden race on the hillside turf course Jan. 8 and was promoted to first.

Consecrate and Teton Forest are trained by Bob Baffert. Consecrate is winless in four stakes, including a fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile here in October. He was gelded after finishing seventh in the Delta Jackpot Stakes on Dec. 5.

"Hopefully, it will get him to focus," Baffert said.

Teton Forest scored a sharp maiden win Jan. 3 in his career debut. He is unlikely to be an early threat to Hosco.

Hosco needs a strong performance to justify a start in a longer race in coming weeks.

"I think we'll see him run well," O'Neill said. "This will be a good test for two turns down the road."