04/12/2004 11:00PM

Publication heads to Churchill

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The superiority of California sprinters may be further validated on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs. The late-running Publication, trained by Vladimir Cerin, will be among the favorites along with local sprinter McCann's Mojave in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap at seven furlongs.

In his March 7 comeback, Publication finished second in the San Carlos Handicap behind Pico Central, who returned last weekend at Aqueduct to win the Grade 1 Carter with a Beyer Speed Figure of 116. Publication is owned by Ernie Moody's Mercedes Stable, a part-owner in Rock Hard Ten. Publication has won three races and $344,050 from 11 starts.

Publication hopes to follow California-based Pico Central, Our New Recruit (Golden Shaheen in Dubai), and Ema Bovary (Vinery Madison at Keeneland) as California-based sprinters to win on the road recently. California-bred Bear Fan, the 5-year-old mare who won the Irish O'Brien on March 17 at Santa Anita after winning the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie on Feb. 14 at Laurel, also will run on Derby Day at Churchill, in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff.

Special Ring back in training

Grade 1 winner Special Ring, one of California's top turf milers last summer, has resumed training and will return during the Hollywood Park meet.

"I'm just taking my time with him," trainer Julio Canani said, without naming a comeback race.

Special Ring finished a troubled eighth in his last start, the Breeders' Cup Mile, and has been sidelined with a pulled muscle. While the 7-year-old has won nine races and $675,023 from 25 starts, Canani and owner Prestonwood Farm also are enthusiastic about another gelding.

Bayamo has not raced since an emphatic first-level allowance win last summer, but he has recovered from a minor injury and is in steady training. The 5-year-old has raced only six times, winning twice.

"Maybe I'll have two for the Eddie Read this year," Canani said. Special Ring won the Read last summer.

Canani also trains M. P. Cat for Prestonwood. The 3-year-old earned a Beyer Figure of 104 finishing second in a first-level allowance on April 10, and could ship to Churchill Downs for his next start in a similar race.

Special Matter looking to rebound

Trainer Rafael Becerra figures that if Special Matter can keep his shoes on Sunday, the 6-year-old gelding will be a lot more competitive in the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano than he was March 20 in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey. Special Matter finished eighth and was never a factor.

"He lost his damn shoe, that's why he didn't fire," Becerra said, adding, "I'm pretty sure he did it early, because he wasn't in the race at all."

Special Matter has won six races and $466,345 from 29 starts, and gets into the San Juan Capistrano at only 113 pounds because he has not won a stakes since late in the 2002 season.

Other possible starters in the San Juan Capistrano include 2002 winner Ringaskiddy, Runaway Dancer, and White Buck. Ballingarry, Diplomatic Bag, and Epicenter were assigned 117-pound highweight in the 1 3/4-mile turf race, the traditional closing-day feature of the Santa Anita meet.

Solis and Megahertz together again

Megahertz and jockey Alex Solis will reunite Saturday, when the mare starts as the 121-pound highweight in the Grade 2 Santa Barbara Handicap. Megahertz was ridden by Victor Espinoza on March 27, when she crossed the wire first in the Santa Ana Handicap only to be disqualified for interference.

The main rival for Megahertz in the Santa Barbara, at 1 1/4 miles on turf, will be Dimitrova. Winner of the American Oaks last summer for trainer Dermot Weld, Dimitrova is making her first start since she finished last in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Dimitrova has been transferred to trainer Neil Drysdale and will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux.

Ticker Tape points to Honeymoon

Ticker Tape, who won the Providencia Stakes on Sunday, is expected to skip the Grade 3, one-mile Senorita Stakes for 3-year-old turf fillies on May 15 at Hollywood Park, and aim for the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap on June 5. At 1 1/8 miles, the Honeymoon is a more suitable prep for the Grade 1 American Oaks at 1 1/4 miles on July 3.

Ticker Tape paid $12 when she won the China Doll on March 18, and $11.40 in the Providencia. Bettors never give her any respect.

"They will now," trainer Jim Cassidy said. "She might be a good one, and I don't think she's 100 percent yet."

The 3-year-old filly was purchased at a horses-in-training sale last fall in England for approximately $180,000, the most Cassidy has spent on a European horse.

Ticker Tape was one of six fillies Cassidy purchased last fall. He said Unrivalled, who scored an $88.80 upset winning the Pasadena Stakes at a mile on turf, will point for the Grade 3 Will Rogers on May 22.

Cassidy also trains Star Vega, who will add blinkers when she takes on Megahertz and Dimitrova on Saturday in the Santa Barbara.

"The blinkers have really relaxed her," he said. "A lot of guys use them for speed, but this has had the opposite effect. It's made her feel more secure, more boxed in."

Star Vega gets into the Santa Barbara at only 112 pounds. Cassidy had not named a rider.

Another of the fillies is Katdogawn, who inherited the Santa Ana victory when Megahertz was disqualified. She is aiming for the Grade 3 Wilshire on April 25 at Hollywood Park.