12/06/2001 12:00AM

Penamacor tries to go in right direction


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Penamacor, the Chilean-bred trained by Ron McAnally, has spent most of his first year in the United States completely turned around. With Penamacor winning only one race in six starts in California, an allowance race at Del Mar, McAnally admits there is a touch of disappointment that Penamacor has not made a stronger impact in California's older horse division.

"He's got the ability if we can straighten him out," McAnally said. The 4-year-old Penamacor, who won the 2000 Chilean Derby, will have another chance to prove he belongs when he starts in Sunday's $100,000 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Run over 1 1/8 miles on dirt, the Native Diver will be Penamacor's first start on the main track since he won a one-mile allowance race on Aug. 15. He followed with a fifth in the Clement Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship on Sept. 30 , leading by as many as 12 lengths before fading in the stretch. In the Steinlen Handicap on Nov. 11, Penamacor was in contention on the backstretch but faded to finish last of eight.

The erratic form had McAnally puzzled until he reviewed Penamacor's races from Chile.

"I've watched his tapes and I'm convinced the reason he does it is because most of his races in Chile were in the opposite direction," McAnally said. "We've got him with an outside blinker and he has an outside bit."

The Native Diver is an ideal spot for Penamacor. A Grade 3, the Native Diver has a respectable purse, but will not draw a tough field. Euchre, the winner of the Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows on July 7, is the likely favorite. Other probables include Grey Memo, Last Parade, Madraar, Momentum, Pie n Burger, and Spicy Stuff.

Time ripe for new handicap horses to emerge

With its position in December, the Native Diver is the unofficial start to the buildup for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 2, and it could add a few members to a depleted handicap division.

Tiznow, the 2000 Horse of the Year and winner of the 2001 Santa Anita Handicap, has been retired to stud, as have the multiple graded stakes winners Aptitude and Dixie Dot Com.

Skimming, the two-time winner of the Pacific Classic, is out until late spring, along with Lido Palace. Both are trained by Bobby Frankel. Horses such as Futural, Irisheyesareflying, and Freedom Crest are expected back next year and could make the Santa Anita Handicap.

Freedom Crest will rejoin trainer Richard Baltas's stable on Sunday after a one-month vacation, and may be ready for the San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb. 3. He was last in the Breeders' Cup Classic, which was preceded by a 39-1 upset in the Goodwood Handicap at Santa Anita.

"At least he's proven he's a good horse," Baltas said of Freedom Crest. "It didn't bother me that Tiznow retired. The time is now to try the big races."

Valenzuela's bid for license continues

Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, who has not ridden since February 2000 because of a substance abuse violation, is scheduled to meet with California Horse Racing Board officials on Sunday in an effort to regain his jockey's license.

Valenzuela and his attorney, Donald Calabria, will meet with Roy Wood, the executive director of the California Horse Racing Board, Calabria said.

Earlier this fall, Valenzuela met with stewards at Santa Anita to discuss conditions for a comeback. It was the first time he had met with stewards since last February when his request to be relicensed was rejected.

Valenzuela is optimistic about regaining a license and anxious to return to riding, according to jockey's agent Nick Cosato. Valenzuela and Cosato, who have worked together twice in the past, met in late November to work out an agreement for the upcoming Santa Anita meeting, which begins on Dec. 26.

"His attitude is more, 'I'll show them' than verbal," Cosato said. "He said some things he hadn't said in the past."

Ponce de Leona uncertain for Starlet

Ponce de Leona, a stakes winner who was second in the Moccasin Stakes here on Nov. 18, is unlikely to start in the Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 16, trainer Christopher Paasch said.

Ponce de Leona worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 on Nov. 30, but emerged with a cough. "If it clears up right away, we'll go. If not, we'll wait for the Santa Ysabel," Paasch said, referring to the Grade 3 race over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita on Jan. 6.

The Starlet field is expected to include Habibti, Renaissance Woman, Tali'sluckybusride and Unforgettable R.N.

Paasch said the 3-year-old Cottonwood Cowboy, the winner of an allowance race over 7 1/2 furlongs on Dec. 1, will make his stakes debut in the $150,000 Santa Catalina Stakes over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita on Jan. 19.

Cable Ready benefits from disqualification

A disqualification in Wednesday's $50,000 Free House Stakes for California-bred 2-year-olds led to the promotion of Cable Ready from second to first.

Debonair Joe, the 6-5 favorite, who finished first, was ruled to have caused interference at the start and was placed third behind Main Player. Debonair Joe ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.10.

Cable Ready was making his second start. Trained by Jim Cassidy for Southern Nevada Racing Stable, the gelding won a maiden race for $32,000 claimers at Santa Anita on Nov. 4.

* Saturday's $50,000 Golden Ballet Stakes, the filly equivalent of the Free House Stakes, has drawn seven entrants. Bella Bella Bella, an impressive maiden winner in her career debut at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, is the likely favorite.