02/13/2003 12:00AM

Rain gives horses an unexpected day off

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Three straight mornings of wet weather from Tuesday through Thursday had Southern California trainers remembering the good old days of last month when a normally wet January came and went without a drop of rain.

Because of the conditions, training was restricted during the middle of the week. Only the outside of the main track was open, for joggers, with the inside sealed to protect it for afternoon racing. The Santa Anita training track was open, but there were few workouts over that surface.

Many horses have stayed in the barn and tack-walked or were sent to the track for a jog just to get some exercise.

"You almost feel like a schoolteacher when the kids have to stay inside," trainer Doug O'Neill said from Hollywood Park "They're a lot more antsy and cranked up."

The rain was the first disruption in training since the last rainstorm in mid-December. Unlike their counterparts across the country, California trainers ask very little of their horses during wet conditions.

For some horses, the break may be a blessing in disguise, a chance for a day away from routine exercise and for a day of rest.

"It's something different and it's less stress," trainer Ian Jory said. "It does them a lot of good. We need a break at some stage and this is better than nothing."

Conditions were expected to improve by Friday. Better weather will allow for weekend turf racing and lengthy lists of workers in the morning.

"This has kind of changed our normal routine, but we've been able to get them out," said trainer Jeff Mullins, who is based at Santa Anita. "It does cramp our breezers. I've got a couple of colts that were supposed to breeze on Wednesday that were nominated for stakes."

Mullins expects to have a busy weekend - both in the mornings and during the races. He is second in the trainer standings and wants to keep that success going in the second half of the meeting.

"I'm sure some of the horses really appreciate the time off," he said. "If you got horses that you're pressing for stakes, it can cramp your style. We'll be back on it as soon as we get a decent track."

Plan B co-owner dies

Bill Bannasch, whose horses raced as the Plan B Stable, died last Sunday of cancer at his home in Solana Beach, Calif.

Bannasch, 61, a native of Michigan, operated the Plan B Stable with his wife, Linear. Bill Bannasch was the president of the EZ 8 Motel chain and was a lawyer.

The Plan B stable is currently active at Santa Anita with trainer Mark Glatt. The stable has horses at all levels of competition.

"He was a friend before he was a client," Glatt said of Bill Bannasch.

In the past, Plan B has had such notable horses as Michigan Bluff, who won the Hillsborough Handicap at Bay Meadows, and Speaking of Time, who finished second in the Vanity Handicap and Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap in 2000. She was later unplaced in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs.

Glatt said the Plan B Stable will continue to be operated by Linear Bannasch.

Little Treasure out of Buena Vista

Little Treasure, the winner of two stakes for 3-year-old fillies last summer, will miss Monday's $150,000 Buena Vista Handicap because of illness, trainer Laura de Seroux said.

The Buena Vista was scheduled to be Little Treasure's 4-year-old debut.

"My barn is coughing," de Seroux said. "She ran a little temp."

De Seroux said the temperature prevented Little Treasure from having her final major workout before the Buena Vista, run over a mile on turf for fillies and mares. With the recent rain, de Seroux said that Little Treasure may not have liked the conditions on Monday.

"I don't think she likes the soft," she said. "I think she likes the firm turf."

Last year, Little Treasure won the San Clemente Handicap and Pucker Up Stakes after arriving from France. Last October, she finished ninth in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland on a good turf course.

"It was awful at Keeneland," de Seroux said. "She jumped up and down."

De Seroux said the illness has postponed starts for several other members of her barn. "I brought in the 2-year-olds and this happened," she said.

Grammarian on vacation

Grammarian, the winner of the San Gabriel Handicap in late December, is notably absent from Saturday's San Luis Obispo Handicap.

Second in the Hollywood Turf Cup last November and third in the San Marcos Stakes on Jan. 20, Grammarian is being given a break, trainer Beau Greely said.

Owner Lindsey Williams has entertained the thought of sending Grammarian to Australia for the Melbourne Cup in November, but he and Greely are also contemplating a campaign geared toward the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita in late October.

"I'll probably get him going for the late spring or early summer," Greely said.

* Avanzado, the winner of the Palos Verdes Handicap on Jan. 26, remains on schedule for the $2 million Golden Shaheen Sprint at Nad Al Sheba in Dubai on March 29. "He's had his first series of vaccinations before Dubai," O'Neill said. "The plane leaves on March 13. I'm just wondering how this war thing will play out."

* Trainer Ron McAnally was briefly hospitalized at Huntington Memorial earlier this week because of low-grade pneumonia. He is resting at his Pasadena residence.