01/02/2002 12:00AM

Palos Verdes likely next for Snow Ridge


ARCADIA, Calif. - The victory by 18-1 shot Snow Ridge in Tuesday's El Conejo Handicap buoyed the confidence of his trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, who believes Snow Ridge could be one of the best sprinters in the country, if he could just be more consistent.

"He's a damn nice horse," Lukas said Wednesday morning at his Santa Anita barn. "He's run a few spotty races where he didn't like the racetrack. But yesterday, he took it to the big horse and took off."

Snow Ridge put away the 4-5 favorite, Freespool, and pulled clear for a 3 1/2-length victory in the 5 1/2-furlong race. Lukas said Snow Ridge would likely return in the Grade 2, $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap at six furlongs on Jan. 27.

Later this year, however, Lukas wants to put Snow Ridge back on the turf. A 4-year-old son of Tabasco Cat, Snow Ridge has won 7 of 16 overall, and won his lone grass race sprinting at Churchill Downs in November.

Lukas is retrenching this winter. He will not have a stable in Florida at Gulfstream Park, nor one at Fair Grounds in Louisiana. His only consistent presence outside of Southern California this winter will be at Aqueduct in New York. Lukas also is light on 3-year-old colts, having lost his best prospect, Jump Start, who suffered a career-ending injury in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

But don't count him out yet. Lukas is particularly high on Shah Jehan, a newcomer to his barn who raced three times in Europe last year, winning once. Shah Jehan, a son of Mr. Prospector, was a $4.5 million yearling purchase by John Magnier and Michael Tabor.

"I was bidding on the horse, too, but they outbid me," Lukas said. "But I talked to them this fall, and they agreed that he needed to be on the dirt, so they sent him here and sent him to me.

"Here's a history lesson for you, too," Lukas added. "He's named for the guy who built the Taj Majal."

Shah Jehan worked three furlongs in 35.60 seconds on Tuesday at Santa Anita.

Paga points for Buena Vista

Paga, who won Monday's Monrovia Handicap on the hillside turf course, will return Feb. 18 in the Grade 2, $150,000 Buena Vista Handicap at one mile on turf, according to her trainer, Richard Mandella.

"She's a very good miler," Mandella said Wednesday morning. Paga had been off for three months entering the Monrovia because she had a quarter crack that could not be patched. A South American import, she now has two wins in three starts in this country.

Mandella has another top South American prospect in Straight Flush, who finished second to the highly regarded Lord Flasheart in each horse's North American debut on Sunday. Mandella is pointing Straight Flush for the long-distance turf races later this meet.

"We call him Juan, for San Juan," he said, jokingly, in reference to the closing-day, Grade 1, $400,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at 1 3/4 miles.

Mandella said Straight Flush could make his next start in the Grade 2, $200,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on turf on Feb. 16, but he is toying with trying Straight Flush on dirt, since that division for older horses seems particularly light this winter. Straight Flush was a 10-length winner against maidens in his only start on dirt in Brazil.

"If he likes the dirt, this would be the time to find out, with all the big races coming up," Mandella said. "If not, we can always go back to the San Juan."

Dark Moondancer back on tab

Dark Moondancer did not run in last Sunday's San Gabriel Handicap because trainer Ron McAnally was not pleased with his weight assignment, and because the horse recently suffered from a bout of colic. He returned to work on Wednesday, covering a half-mile on turf in 54.20 seconds, the slowest of five works at the distance. The orange cones known as dogs were placed well out past the middle of the course.

"When he had colic, we took him to the clinic, and we found he had old ulcers and new ones," McAnally said.

McAnally entered Seinne in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 San Pasqual Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Seinne has raced 12 times on turf, and just once on dirt, but that one time resulted in a victory at Del Mar.

"I think the dirt division is easier than the turf right now," McAnally said, echoing Mandella's thoughts. "If he runs well, he can run in the big dirt races later on."

McAnally added that he is still at a loss to explain Early Flyer's eighth-place finish as the favorite in the opening-day Malibu Stakes. "Today was his third day back to the track. I haven't found anything wrong with him physically," McAnally said.

* Jockey Iggy Puglisi, who fractured three vertebrae and his right knee in an accident Saturday night at Los Alamitos, was moved on Tuesday afternoon to Arcadia Methodist Hospital, where he is expected to remain "for a few days," according to his agent, Richie Silverstein.

* Kalookan Queen, preparing for the Grade 1, $200,000 Santa Monica Handicap for older female sprinters on Jan. 26, flew five furlongs in 57.60 seconds on Wednesday morning for trainer Bruce Headley. It was the best time of 48 at the distance. The second-fastest time was 59.40 seconds; only two other horses had times faster than one minute.

* Tamarack Bay, who is expected to run in Sunday's Grade 3, $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, worked a half-mile in 48.40 seconds for trainer Jerry Dutton.