12/02/2004 12:00AM

Pico Central may be on road to Dubai sprint

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Pico Central, a top candidate for the Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding sprinter, will have a winter campaign geared toward a possible start in the $2 million Golden Shaheen Sprint in Dubai on March 26, trainer Paulo Lobo said.

Lobo said Pico Central emerged from a third-place finish in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 27 in good condition despite losing a shoe in the race. He said the 5-year-old horse sustained some minor damage to the wall of his right hind foot, but did not expect it to curtail Pico Central's winter campaign.

"The foot was a little warm, but now he's okay," Lobo said.

In the Cigar Mile, Pico Central was near the front but faded to finish 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner, Lion Tamer.

The $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap at six furlongs on Jan. 23 and the $150,000 San Carlos Handicap at seven furlongs on Feb. 26 are possible for the first start of Pico Central's 2005 campaign, Lobo said.

The San Carlos was the first of Pico Central's four stakes victories in 2004. He also won the Carter and Metropolitan handicaps and the Vosburgh Stakes, all Grade 1 races.

Lobo said the first-place purse of $1.2 million in the Golden Shaheen makes Dubai an attractive possibility. Pico Central has earned $1,183,145 with nine wins from 15 starts.

"He didn't make in one year what he can make on one night," he said.

Santa Anita to test for bicarbonates

Santa Anita will test all starters for excessive bicarbonate levels during the upcoming winter-spring meeting that begins Dec. 26.

During the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting earlier this fall, prerace tests were conducted to detect high levels of sodium bicarbonate, administered by what is known in racing circles as milkshakes. Giving a horse a milkshake, typically through a tube into the stomach via the nose, is considered a possible performance enhancer.

The program is expected to cost $10 per horse, with test results available within three to five days, according to Santa Anita's general manager, George Haines.

The track announced three levels of penalties for trainers whose horses are found to be in excess of the permitted level of total carbon dioxide, 37 millimoles per liter of plasma.

A first offense could lead to a trainer's barn being placed under surveillance for 45 days, and possible confinement of horses entered by that trainer in a detention barn on the day before racing.

A second offense would prohibit the trainer from starting a horse for 15 race days. A third offense would lead to the trainer being banned from Santa Anita for a year.

First victories for DeLeon

Rafael DeLeon, who was suddenly thrust into a role as trainer of record when Doug Peterson died two weeks ago, recorded his first two victories in consecutive races Wednesday at Hollywood Park.

DeLeon, 43, had been Peterson's assistant for the past five years. The entire 21-horse barn became his when Peterson died.

"It's been a little hard. It's been a little scary. But the owners have been great," DeLeon said after his first victory, with Going on Again in Wednesday's third race. Both Going on Again and fourth-race winner Rushing Wild are owned in part by Richard O'Neill, one of Peterson's top clients.

"I like the horses Mr. O'Neill has," DeLeon said. "I know his horses from having worked with them. I know the horses on the farm, the babies. I wanted to train his horses.

"He and June Daniels, they have been very nice," he added. "Today I got big news. Mr. O'Neill said I could continue to train the horses. I thank God for the opportunity."

DeLeon has been on the racetrack since he was 19. Before working for Peterson, he had worked for D. Wayne Lukas, Randy Bradshaw, and Cliff Sise.

"I know the horses," DeLeon said. "When Mr. O'Neill gave me the decision, I could relax. Doug had a lot of trust in me. I thank him for that."

Torres, almost 60, wins

Jockey R.V. Torres doesn't get a lot of chances. Then again, considering he turned 60 on Thursday, just the fact that he is riding is noteworthy. He celebrated his birthday a day early on Wednesday by guiding the improbable longshot T.A. Thomas Alan to a $172.60 victory in the sixth race.

The win was the first for Torres in 48 mounts this year.

The winner was hard to find. T.A. Thomas Alan, a maiden, was running in a $50,000 claiming race on the turf. He had lost his previous five starts by 11 lengths or more, and twice had been defeated in maiden-claiming races.

* Intercontinental, the winner of Sunday's Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes, will remain in training next year, according to trainer Bobby Frankel. He said Etoile Montante, the Matriarch runner-up, has been retired and will be bred next spring.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman