05/29/2003 11:00PM

Reba's Gold sets sights higher


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Reba's Gold returned from a six-month break and scored a convincing win in the Grade 3 Seabiscuit Handicap at Bay Meadows last Monday. His vacation may have ended at a perfect time.

The prospective field for the $400,000 Californian Stakes here June 14 does not appear strong, and owner Alex Trebek and trainer Dan Hendricks may consider that race for the 6-year-old Reba's Gold, who won the Seabiscuit by eight lengths.

The win not only confirmed that Reba's Gold has returned to top form after a lengthy break, but it gave Hendricks relief that a trip to the Japan Cup Dirt, which resulted in a ninth-place finish, did not exhaust Reba's Gold.

"You do something like we did last year and you always wonder if you'll ruin your horse," Hendricks said.

After the Japan Cup Dirt, Reba's Gold had a vacation at Trebek's central California farm, Creston Farm in Paso Robles. Reba's Gold returned to Hendricks at Santa Anita in the spring and won his third stakes race in the last year in the Seabiscuit Handicap.

"We did it right," Hendricks said. "We turned him out and they did a good job at Creston. We tried to freshen him up physically and mentally. He had a big year last year. He had 11 tough races. Physically, he was tired."

The Grade 2 Californian, for older horses, is run at 1 1/8 miles. The possible runners include the first three finishers from the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap May 10 - Total Impact, Fleetstreet Dancer, and Piensa Sonando; Western Pride, who won the San Bernardino Handicap at Santa Anita in April but was unplaced in the Pimlico Special two weeks ago; and Milwaukee Brew, who has not started since winning the Santa Anita Handicap in March.

Reba's Gold won at 1 1/8 miles in the Pomona Invitational Handicap at Fairplex Park last fall. Even though that race caters to a lower level of handicap horses, Reba's Gold did return a week later and ran third behind Pleasantly Perfect and Momentum in the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita.

Those same races are on Hendricks's mind this year.

"I want to have a good horse for the Pomona Invitational, the Goodwood, and the Breeders' Cup," he said. "If we get lucky."

Belleski, Stalking Tiger stakes prospects

The late double at Hollywood Park Thursday was won by horses who could be in stakes races by the Del Mar meet later this summer.

In the seventh race, Belleski won her fourth consecutive race in an optional claiming race at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf.

In the final race, Stalking Tiger, a first-time starter, won in a field of maiden claimers by 4 1/2 lengths, finishing five furlongs in a sharp 57.48 seconds.

Belleski was supposed to have started in the Las Cienegas Handicap at Santa Anita in April, but she was discovered to have an entrapped epiglottis and had minor surgery to help her breathing, trainer John Sadler said.

Because of that procedure, she had not started in three months before Thursday's race. Sent off as the 6-5 favorite, Belleski closed from fourth to take the lead in the final furlong. She won by two lengths over 12-1 Knoll Lake, who set the pace.

Belleski ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.24. The victory was her first away from the Santa Anita turf course, where her winning streak started with a one-mile maiden race in April 2002 and continued with two wins earlier this year.

"It's fun when you come up slowly and can get a streak going. I think we'd like to try for black type," Sadler said, referring to a possible stakes race. "You'll probably see her at a mile."

Stalking Tiger caught trainer Paul Aguirre by surprise when he won so convincingly. Stalking Tiger was purchased privately in May after he was withdrawn from the Barretts May sale due to a temperature, Aguirre said.

Sent off at 5-1, Stalking Tiger led throughout, posting a final time slightly faster than the 57.79 seconds Kind Lena ran earlier in the day, winning a maiden special weight race for fillies.

"I thought he was a little green, but he ran a fast time," Aguirre said.

Stalking Tiger has been in training since January. He had workouts at Laurel Brown Track near Salt Lake City during the winter and at Fairplex Park in February and March.

Because he beat maiden claiming company, Stalking Tiger could return in a starter allowance race, although Aguirre expressed interest in the two stakes races for 2-year-old California-breds at Del Mar - the $125,000 Graduation Stakes July 30 and the I'm Smokin Stakes Sept. 8.

Special Ring could try Firecracker

Special Ring, second in the Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile Monday, may return in the $250,000 Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap at one mile at Churchill Downs July 5, trainer Julio Canani said.

In the Shoemaker, Special Ring led early and was passed by winner Redattore in the final sixteenth, losing by three-quarters of a length in his first start since August.

"I knew he'd run his race," Canani said. "I don't want to stretch him out. The Breeders' Cup is the dream."