11/15/2004 12:00AM

Pico Central to Cigar after all

Pico Central is the front-runner as the year's top sprinter - partly because of his victory over eventual BC Sprint champ Speightstown in the Oct. 2 Vosburgh at Belmont.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - After briefly considering other alternatives, trainer Paulo Lobo has come to the most logical choice on where to next run his championship-caliber sprinter, Pico Central.

"We will run in the Cigar Mile," Lobo said Sunday after Pico Central worked six furlongs in 1:14.20 at Hollywood Park.

Lobo had also considered this Saturday's Grade 1 De Francis Memorial Dash at Pimlico, but decided the Grade 1 Cigar Mile on Nov. 27 was the best spot for Pico Central. He won the Grade 1 Carter Handicap over the same Aqueduct main track earlier this year.

"And the shipping is easier," Lobo said.

Pico Central is coming off a powerful victory in the Grade 1 Vosburgh Handicap at Belmont Park. Since then, Pico Central has been "training awesome," Lobo said.

Pico Central is considered the front-runner for the Eclipse Award as champion sprinter, based on his head-to-head victory over Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Speightstown in the Vosburgh. However, Pico Central subsequently passed the BC Sprint because owner Gary Tanaka did not want to pay the huge supplemental fee.

Solis recuperating, visits track

Jockey Alex Solis, who has been sidelined for nearly four months with a fractured back, was a visitor at Hollywood Park on Sunday. He said doctors have cleared him to play golf, and are satisfied with the progress he is making, but has made no timetable on his return.

"I'm just going to go by what the doctor says," Solis said. "I want to make sure I do the right thing for my body. I'm in no hurry. When the doctor says you're 100 percent, I will go back."

Solis said his doctors "were really happy the last time when they took X-rays." He said being able to start physical therapy and play golf has been of benefit to both he and his wife, Sheila.

"I started therapy a couple of weeks ago, and I got the green light to play golf," Solis said. "They said the golf was a good idea to get my muscles stretched. Sheila's real happy. It got me out of the house."

Solis said he planned on taking a trip to Cabo San Lucas and another to his beloved Napa Valley in coming weeks.

"I'm just enjoying life," he said.

Splendid Blended, Texcess shine

Splendid Blended and Texcess were impressive winners of allowance races for 2-year-olds on Sunday's card.

Splendid Blended was making her first start since finishing second in the Oak Leaf Stakes to subsequent Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Sweet Catomine. With jockey Kent Desormeaux aboard, she won by a comfortable 3 1/4 lengths while being geared down through the stretch, befitting a horse who was a prohibitive 1-10 favorite.

Neil Drysdale, who trains Splendid Blended, thought the race was an ideal prep for next month's Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet.

"That was very nice," Drysdale said. "It was a big improvement over the Oak Leaf. Much better. That'll do her a lot of good."

Splendid Blended was timed in 1:43.75 for 1 1/16 miles.

Texcess ran more than one second faster (1:42.71) when defeating such well-regarded 2-year-olds as Chips Are Down and favored Giacomo. It was his second straight victory. He had won the California Cup Juvenile in his previous start.

"That might be a nice horse," said his trainer, Paul Aguirre. "He looked like he was playing with them. I was glad Giacomo was in the race. Not that I thought we could beat him, but because I thought we'd be able to get a better gauge on my horse."

Aguirre said Texcess would make his next start in either the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 19, or the $1 million Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs on Dec. 4.

Fairly Ransom's eventful morning

Fairly Ransom apparently avoided serious injury after losing his exercise rider and running into the outer rail during an aborted turf workout on Sunday morning at Hollywood Park.

Fairly Ransom was scheduled to work, but acted obstinately after coming on the course. Despite prodding, he refused to get out of a jog. He was behaving erratically while along the outer rail of the turf in the home stretch, causing several turf workers to dodge him.

Then, Fairly Ransom lost his rider and ran off.

"He just skinned himself," said his trainer, Ron McAnally. "I think he'll be all right. We'll just have to take him with a pony next time."

McAnally said that if Fairly Ransom does not have a setback, he will race next in the Grade 1 Citation Handicap on Nov. 27.

Sweet Return, who outran Fairly Ransom in last year's Hollywood Derby, will miss the Citation.

"He lost his right front shoe in the race in Kentucky," McAnally said, referring to the Shadwell Mile. "He missed some time."

Imperialism tunes up for Mulhall

Trainer Kristin Mulhall will have action in the Autumn Turf Festival later this month, most notably with Imperialism in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. On Saturday, Imperialism breezed five furlongs in 59.80 seconds on the Hollywood Park main track.

Imperialism finished third in the Kentucky Derby earlier this year. The Hollywood Derby is also at 1 1/4 miles, but is on turf.

"After that, I'll point him for the Strub Series. That's my main goal," Mulhall said.

Mulhall also has high hopes for Argentine import Romeo Plus, who could make his United States debut in the Citation. "I might wait and run him at Santa Anita," Mulhall said. "He's a multiple Group 1 winner, on turf and dirt. He was one of the biggest over there. I brought him over in June. He's the real deal, that horse."

* Musical Chimes, prepping for the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes on Nov. 28, breezed six furlongs in 1:16.80 on Sunday on the Hollywood Park turf. Musical Chimes finished second in last year's Matriarch.

* Kent Desormeaux will ride Musical Chimes, so Victor Espinoza will pick up the mount on Ticker Tape for the Matriarch, according to Espinoza's agent, Tony Matos. Espinoza will ride Fast and Furious in the Hollywood Derby.

* Espinoza has a busy schedule ahead. He will ride Pico Central in the Cigar Mile, and in the first week of December will compete in an international jockey challenge in Japan.

* Megahertz will take on males in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup on Dec. 4, trainer Bobby Frankel said. She worked a half-mile in 49 seconds on Saturday. "She's going to be retired. It could be her last race," Frankel said.

* Short Route, who is expected to compete in Sunday's $100,000 Moccasin Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, worked five furlongs in 59.40 seconds on Sunday at Hollywood Park.