04/02/2004 1:00AM

Pesci aims at lesser target

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ARCADIA, Calif. - More than two months after Pesci suffered her first defeat, in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream Park, the filly named for and co-owned by the famous actor Joe Pesci will attempt to win her first stakes in Sunday's $75,000 Santa Lucia Handicap at Santa Anita.

A couple of months ago, trainer and co-owner Wesley Ward did not expect Pesci to be eligible for the Santa Lucia, which is run over 1 1/16 miles for fillies and mares that have not won a stakes at a mile or longer this year.

But in the Sunshine Millions Distaff for California-breds and Florida-breds on Jan. 24, Pesci finished ninth after being struck in the eye by a dirt clod. Ward said it affected her performance.

"She's a filly with a big heart and I expected her to run a big race," Ward said. "You'd think even with the dirt clod she would have run better. It's hard to say what happened. Obviously, the eye affected her because she couldn't see out of it the next day.

"It took a few weeks to get better. It's 100 percent and fine now."

Pesci won her other two starts last fall in Southern California. She beat maidens by 8 1/2 lengths at Hollywood Park on Nov. 27 and won an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles by five lengths on Dec. 28.

"She's been at Santa Anita for two years now and she obviously loves training here," Ward said. "I'm looking for a big effort."

Joe Pesci has attended each race that his namesake has run in, and is expected at Santa Anita on Sunday.

The Santa Lucia drew seven, including Royally Chosen, the winner of the 2003 California Cup Matron; Summer Wind Dancer, the winner of the 2002 California Cup Juvenile Fillies; and Potra Fabulous, a multiple stakes winner in Argentina last year.

Potra Fabulous is making her first start on dirt in the United States. Trained by Bobby Frankel, she was fourth in the Tuzla Handicap over a mile on turf in January.

Summer Wind Dancer is making her first start for trainer Jeff Mullins. She was previously trained by Jenine Sahadi. The Santa Lucia is her first start since she finished sixth in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf here in January.

Royally Chosen finished first in the Kalookan Queen Handicap for female sprinters on Dec. 31, but was disqualified and placed second behind Ema Bovary for causing interference in the stretch.

In the Sunshine Millions Distaff, Royally Chosen was near the lead at the eighth pole but faded to finish fifth.

Royally Chosen has shown speed in the past, but Pesci may set the pace. Pesci led throughout the maiden win, but came from off the pace in the optional claimer.

"I'd like to see her come from off the pace and stalk like she did in her second start," Ward said.

Either way, Ward is just hoping that Pesci can return to the winner's circle and continue a promising career. He is considering sending her to Churchill Downs for an allowance race on May 1, the Kentucky Derby program, if she wins on Sunday.

Fairplex purse redistributed

The $18,000 purse of a claiming race run at Fairplex Park last September has been ordered redistributed after race winner Nicole's Apollo tested positive for an excessive amount of clenbuterol.

Clenbuterol is a bronchial dilator used to aid horses with breathing problems. It is allowed to appear in post-race tests in trace levels.

Owner-trainer Tony Dee was fined $1,500 in a stipulated agreement with the California Horse Racing Board, Santa Anita stewards said.

Dee was ordered to forfeit the $9,900 purse that Nicole's Apollo earned for the win in the six-furlong sprint for $12,500 claimers.

The revised order of finish is Spectacular Chance, Mansilver, Waki American, Sunnys Buddy, and Kalookan Star.

Terrell headed to Churchill

Terrell, who won a six-furlong allowance race by seven lengths in 1:08.41 on March 20, will make his next start in the $200,000 Churchill Downs Handicap on May 1. The race is run over seven furlongs and is part of the undercard of the Kentucky Derby.

Owned by Darley Stable, Terrell has won both his starts at this meeting.

"I think it would be a great start to find out what we've got," trainer Eoin Harty said of the Churchill Downs Handicap. "He won going 6 1/2 furlongs and he was very impressive going six. Hopefully, we can get seven-eighths out of him."

Red Rioja recuperating

Red Rioja, the winner of the Grade 3 Brown Bess Handicap at Golden Gate Fields on Jan. 31, has been turned out after suffering a fractured hind cannon bone, trainer Ben Cecil said. Red Rioja will return to training this summer, Cecil said.

"She should recover," Cecil said. "We found it a week after the race up north."

* Retired Hall of Fame jockeys Eddie Delahoussaye and Laffit Pincay Jr. will be honored by the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation on Monday at the Twin Palms Restaurant in Pasadena. The foundation benefits California's backstretch workers and their families. Monday's event will begin with cocktails at 6:30 p.m. and dinner at 7:30. For further information, contact Angie Carmona at (323) 243-9379.

* Zero Call ($120.40) pulled an upset in Friday's first race for 2-year-old maidens. The first-time starter won the two-furlong race by a neck over Whatsthenameman. Zero Call was ridden by Guillermo Gutierrez, who primarily rides at Los Alamitos. Owned and bred by Lowell and John Osburn, Zero Call is trained by Gus Turner. Zero Call is by Phonetics, who is by Phone Trick.

* Jockey Emile Ramsammy is relocating to Woodbine at the end of this meeting. Through Thursday, Ramsammy had 13 wins. Ramsammy has been a top rider at Woodbine in the last decade.