12/26/2003 1:00AM

Redattore's finale?

Benoit & Associates
Redattore, winning the Citation in November, has won one Grade 1 and two Grade 2's in his 2003 campaign.

ARCADIA, Calif. - It will be a blow to the California turf division if Redattore is retired to stud after the Grade 2 San Gabriel Handicap Sunday at Santa Anita. But it would also be a familiar paradox - the better the horse, the more valuable he becomes as a stallion prospect, and the less likely he will continue to race.

In Redattore's case, the surprise is that it took until the end of his 8-year-old season for retirement to beckon. The dilemma that owner Luis Taunay faces is deciding whether to continue racing Redattore next year or to retire him to a California breeding farm.

"There has been discussion of retiring him," said trainer Richard Mandella, adding that Taunay is "fighting with himself whether to run him again or retire him."

Redattore is not making the decision easy - his 2003 campaign has been the most successful of his career and includes victories in one Grade 1 and two Grade 2's, and earnings of $774,147. Redattore is fresh from a sharp win in the $400,000 Citation at Hollywood Park, and a bullet five-furlong workout Monday in 57.60 seconds hints that he remains in peak form.

"I don't know what got into him," Mandella said. "We weren't asking him that day, he just went out and did it. He's always been a good-feeling horse with a lot of character. He's sound, he's good, and healthy."

He also is the class of the San Gabriel field. Redattore has won 14 races and more than $1.7 million from 31 starts. Alex Solis rides.

Nine runners entered the $150,000 San Gabriel at 1 1/8 miles. Redattore's perceived dominance is one reason he carries 122 pounds, six more than his closest rival. The San Gabriel field includes Denied, who has crossed the wire first all five grass starts; graded stakes winner Continental Red, who is using the San Gabriel as a tuneup for a Sunshine Millions race; and Trial by Jury. Other starters include Blue Steller, Maranilla, French Polo, Sign of the Wolf, and Fateful Dream.

Denied might not be the best horse in the field, but no one doubts his resolve. He has started six times since being transferred to trainer Jeff Mullins, and judicious placement has allowed Denied to run first or second in each start. The San Gabriel will be his first graded stakes.

"I haven't run him in stakes; I think he might be a cut below, but he deserves a chance," Mullins said.