04/26/2005 12:00AM

Rock Hard Ten comes up sore

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Rock Hard Ten, here winning the Strub, apparently was hurt in his stall.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Rock Hard Ten has suffered a setback that jeopardizes his spring campaign, trainer Richard Mandella confirmed Tuesday. Rock Hard Ten established himself as California's top-ranked handicap horse this winter by winning three stakes, and bounced back quickly after winning the Santa Anita Handicap in his last start March 5. But his workout pattern - every four to five days - was interrupted last week.

"He came up sore behind, and missed four days," Mandella said Tuesday. He speculates Rock Hard Ten might have wrenched his back by getting cast, and added that serious training was on hold. "I think he's going to be fine, but we'll continue to watch it," he said.

The 4-year-old colt underwent a nuclear scan recently, after which Mandella said he "did not learn anything significant." He added that "the good news is he went sound in four days. But what this means towards the Met Mile or [Hollywood] Gold Cup, I don't know today."

Rock Hard Ten walked for an hour Tuesday at Santa Anita.

The Met Mile is to be run May 30 at Belmont and the Hollywood Gold Cup is scheduled for July 9 at Hollywood Park.

Madeleine Paulson and Mercedes Stables own Rock Hard Ten, a 4-year-old colt who this winter also won the Grade 2 Strub and Grade 1 Malibu Stakes and was named Santa Anita horse of the meet. Overall, Rock Hard Ten has won six races and more than $1.5 million from 10 starts.

Valenzuela due back Saturday

Patrick Valenzuela, who has not ridden since suffering a deep bruise to his right knee in a starting-gate accident Friday at Hollywood Park, will not resume riding until Saturday. Agent Ron Ebanks said Valenzuela was examined early this week and his X-rays were clean, but his knee will require more time to heal.

The leading rider at the Santa Anita winter meet, Valenzuela took off his mounts Wednesday and did not take any calls for Thursday or Friday. Starting Saturday, Valenzuela will have a busy week. He rides King of Happiness on Saturday in the Grade 3 Inglewood Handicap at Hollywood, followed by a full Derby Week at Churchill Downs.

Lexington Stakes winner Coin Silver is a possible Derby mount for Valenzuela, who has been named to ride Runway Model in the Kentucky Oaks, A to the Z in the Woodford Reserve Turf, and Resplendency in the Humana Distaff.

Dorfman, 82, avoiding the R-word

Veteran trainer Leonard Dorfman is out of the racing business, but the 82-year-old is hesitant to use the R-word. Dorfman said Tuesday he has not retired, but needs time to address an unspecified medical condition. Dorfman's last two horses, including graded stakes winner McCann's Mojave, have been transferred to other trainers.

"I actually feel pretty good," Dorfman said Tuesday after answering his cell phone while driving to a meeting of the California Thoroughbred Trainers. Dorfman said he wants to return to training, but that his immediate priority was his health. Dorfman has been training on his own since 1959, and has trained stakes horses Joni U. Bar and Minnesota Chief, in addition to the hard-trying Burn Annie. McCann's Mojave, winner of the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Handicap last March but unplaced in three starts this year, is now trained by Paddy Gallagher.

Gelded Moth Ball 'different horse'

Moth Ball has been castrated, and trainer Jim Cassidy expects an improved effort from the 3-year-old in the Grade 3 Crown Royal American Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 6. Moth Ball was unplaced in his last start, his second consecutive disappointing effort since arriving in the United States.

"I have altered his thinking - I cut him," Cassidy said.

Moth Ball won a listed stakes in Europe as a 2-year-old last year, but has been a rogue in the U.S.

"He tried to kill us," Cassidy said, adding that after being gelded, "in two days' time he was a different horse . . . usually it takes a month."

Cassidy has been piling up frequent flier miles, traveling between California and Kentucky, where he will start Moth Ball on Oaks Day. On Kentucky Derby Day, he will run Ticker Tape in the Grade 3 WinnerComm Distaff Turf Mile and Place Cowboy in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve. He will run the 3-year-old filly Singhalese, a troubled fourth in the Providencia Stakes in her U.S. debut, on May 8 in the Senorita Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Brooke's Halo unlikely for Railbird

Railbird Stakes nominee Brooke's Halo worked three furlongs in 38.80 seconds on Tuesday at Santa Anita, but trainer Jeff Mullins said she is unlikely to start Sunday in the Grade 3 Railbird at Hollywood Park. Brooke's Halo was eased in the Grade 2 Beaumont Stakes on April 14 at Keeneland, and came out of the race with a respiratory infection.

The seven-furlong Railbird will feature promising Bruce Headley trainee Donna's Doll, who scored a three-length maiden win April 10 at Santa Anita.