06/22/2004 11:00PM

Pico Central back on track

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Pico Central, whose three stakes wins this year in California and New York have pushed him to the forefront of the sprint division, resumed training at Hollywood Park on Wednesday, a month after he won the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park.

Pico Central's return to training was postponed because of a grabbed quarter in the Met Mile, a minor injury that will prevent him from starting in the Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 3, trainer Paulo Lobo said.

Instead, Pico Central is being pointed toward the $200,000 Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Handicap over seven furlongs at Del Mar on Aug. 15 or the $250,000 Forego Handicap over seven furlongs at Saratoga on Sept. 4.

"We haven't decided yet, but he may run at Del Mar," Lobo said.

Owned by Gary Tanaka, Pico Central, 5, is unbeaten in four starts this year, including two major seven-furlong stakes - the San Carlos Handicap at Santa Anita in March, and the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct in April.

Lobo speculates that Pico Central grabbed his right quarter at the start of the Met Mile. Pico Central was treated with penicillin after the race, which requires a lengthy withdrawal period. Penicillin is not permitted to appear in post-race tests.

In the long-term, Pico Central is a candidate for the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30, even though he would have to be supplemented. Lobo said that Pico Central can be effective at the BC Sprint distance of six furlongs, even though he has raced over longer distances this year.

In Brazil in 2002, Pico Central won a Group 1 over about five furlongs on turf and won an allowance race over about six furlongs on dirt. "He has speed," Lobo said.

The absence of Pico Central from the Triple Bend will leave the New York invader Speightstown as the top contender in the seven-furlong race.

American Oaks lineup changes

The invitation list for the $750,000 American Oaks on July 3 has been revised to reflect four defections from the original list issued last weekend.

Ask for the Moon, Lucifer's Stone, Sister Star, and Super Bobbina will not start. Eternal Melody, Kalatuna, Miss Vegas, and Steel Princess will take their places in the Grade 1 race for 3-year-old fillies over 1 1/4 miles on turf.

Ask for the Moon, a French stakes winner now trained at San Luis Rey Downs by Laura de Seroux, will be pointed for the Del Mar Oaks on Aug. 21. The other three will not be shipped to California.

The most prominent member of the new invitees is Miss Vegas, who won the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes over a mile on turf here in her U.S. debut on May 15. She is trained by Bobby Frankel, who will also start Eternal Melody, who finished third in the Grade 3 Mint Julep Handicap at Churchill Downs on May 29 in her U.S. debut.

Eternal Melody was bred in New Zealand and is a 4-year-old by North American standards. But since her foaling date was Nov. 10, 2000, she is classified as a 3-year-old in the conditions for the American Oaks.

Kalatuna and Steel Princess are European shippers. Kalatuna was third in a Group 3 race at Chantilly, France, on June 5, while Steel Princess won a Group 3 at Saint-Cloud, France, before finishing 10th in the French Oaks on June 13.

The top contenders for the American Oaks are Mambo Slew, the winner of the Sands Point Handicap at Belmont Park on June 13; Lovely Rafaela and Western Hemisphere, the first two finishers in the Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap here on June 5; and House of Fortune, the winner of the Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks on June 12, who has never started on turf.

Quero Quero targets Milady

Lobo said that Quero Quero will not start in Sunday's Beverly Hills Handicap on turf but will make her graded stakes debut on dirt in the $250,000 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap, a Grade 1 over 1 1/16 miles on July 11.

Quero Quero, 4, has made one start on dirt in her nine-race career, finishing third in the California Oaks in March 2003 as a maiden.

Beverly Hills, Cinema top weekend

The $200,000 Beverly Hills Handicap is the top race of the week at Hollywood Park. Run over 1 1/4 miles on turf for fillies and mares, the race is expected to draw Ardum Relaunch, Light Jig, Miss Loren, Moscow Burning, Noches de Rosa, and Notting Hill.

Saturday's $150,000 Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap for 3-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles on turf is led by Laura's Lucky Boy. Trained by Jason Orman for Mercedes Stable, Laura's Lucky Boy won his stakes debut in the Will Rogers Stakes on May 22.

He will face Blofeld, Chabusco Red, Greek Sun, Kilgowan, Unrivalled, and Whilly

Pleasantly Perfect gearing up

Pleasantly Perfect, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic last October and the Dubai World Cup in March, continues to progress toward a start in the $250,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 1.

Wednesday, Pleasantly Perfect worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 at Santa Anita.

"He's coming along," trainer Richard Mandella said. "It looks like he'll make the San Diego."

Pleasantly Perfect has not started since winning the Dubai World Cup on March 27. He was given six weeks off before resuming serious training.

"We haven't given him any real serious works yet, but that time will come," Mandella said.

The San Diego Handicap is expected to mark the return of two other horses that started in Dubai - Domestic Dispute, who finished sixth in the World Cup; and During, who finished sixth in the Godolphin Mile. Both were stakes winners at Santa Anita earlier this year.

Wednesday, During worked five furlongs in 1:01 at Santa Anita.

Sabiango thinking Sunset

Sabiango, the upset winner of the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Handicap in his first start of 2004 on June 12, is being considered for the $150,000 Sunset Handicap on July 18, trainer Bob Baffert said.

Following the Whittingham, Baffert was considering the United Nations Handicap at Monmouth Park on July 3, but his connections have opted to stay away from the likely humid conditions in New Jersey.

"He spiked a little temperature after that race," Baffert said. "He's had problems bleeding, so I want to keep him out of the humidity."