12/13/2002 1:00AM

Reclamation project on the rise


PHOENIX - Sadly, it's a game of attrition. We go through it every year - horses show enormous promise then go by the wayside due to injury or illness. Some are not seen again, others are unable to return at full efficiency.

So it's refreshing to see the occasional exception and right now there's one in Clifford Sise's barn.

Golden Ticket, a son of Deposit Ticket, looked like a budding star for trainer Mike Mitchell as a 2-year-old in 2000. He romped in a maiden race in November 2000, and was promptly chucked into the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity. He was a non-threatening third, beaten eight lengths by Point Given and Millennium Wind. Point Given went on to win the Preakness, Belmont, Haskell, and Travers, and was 2001 Horse of the Year. Millennium Wind won the Grade 1 Blue Grass.

But Golden Ticket didn't come out of the race well and didn't race again until February 2001, failing to threaten in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita. He came out of the race with an injury and didn't race again until last December, then was laid off again until August.

He lost four straight from August through October, including an eighth-place finish in a race at Del Mar from which he was claimed by Sise for owner Glenn Holsinger.

But suddenly Golden Ticket has begun to look like his old self.

He blasted $20,000 claimers at Hollywood on Nov. 6. Then he drilled starter allowance foes going 1 3/8 miles on Nov. 30. His winning time of 2:15.20 not only earned him a Beyer of 96 but wasn't far off the track mark of 2:14.40 set by Lively One.

"The horse needed weight," said Holsinger. "So Sise fed him beer and put some weight on him. He's blossomed since."

Not only is it evident Golden Ticket likes it here, but he has obviously recovered from whatever knocked him off the Derby trail back in 2001. Now that Sise has him back on track, there's no telling where he will level off.

Checking your horses-to-watch list

There are others besides Golden Ticket that should be on your horses to watch list. Richard Mandella has been fairly quiet this Hollywood meet, but he has stakes runners such as Kudos, The Tin Man, and Pleasantly Perfect for the upcoming Santa Anita meet, and could make an immediate impact with top European miler Medecis.

Medecis went into the Breeders' Cup Mile as one of the Europe's prime hopes. This year the 3-year-old Medecis won two stakes, including a Group 3. He also was second by a neck in the Group 1 Prix de la Foret, fifth beaten just more than four lengths by Banks Hill and eventual BC Mile winner Domedriver in the Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois, and second by a length to eventual Keeneland Mile winner Landseer. Earlier, Medicis had beaten Landseer in the listed Prix Omnium.

Medecis had no chance in the BC Mile - he was pinched back immediately after the start, then simply ran around the track behind a wall of horses, ending up ninth. He finished just behind the filly Dress to Thrill, who came back to win the Matriarch.

Medecis afterward was transferred to Mandella's care, and the horse has worked strongly. He's likely to resurface in the Grade 2 San Gabriel Handicap at Santa Anita, at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. That won't be an easy spot - Decarchy, White Heart, Cottage, Touch of the Blues, and other toughies figure to show up there - but Medecis could be a monster in the making.

He's by Machiavellian, who sired the marvelous Street Cry, so you would expect him to take to dirt, too.

There are others to watch in coming weeks. Java, a full sister to champion turf mare Fiji, made a sparkling U.S. debut for Neil Drysdale last Sunday, winning a maiden race handily.

As you would expect, there's always something to watch from the Bobby Frankel barn. Special Rate is a 2-year-old colt by Pulpit who is a half to graded stakes winners Tates Creek and Sightseek. While there are those watching the Frankel-trained Empire Maker and Ghostzapper as potential Derby material, Special Rate could make his mark.

Frankel also now trains Heat Haze, a recent invader from Europe. The 3-year-old filly Heat Haze is half to champion Banks Hill and 2000 BC Mile third-place finisher Dansili, and with a romping win in France in September before coming to the States, she may be ready to live up to that pedigree.