02/07/2005 1:00AM

Rock Hard Ten may try Dubai

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Richard Mandella (left) and owners Ernie Moody and Madeleine Paulson must choose a direction for Rock Hard Ten.

ARCADIA, Calif. - There is a seven-figure race on Rock Hard Ten's schedule in March. Whether it is the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 5 or the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 26 won't be known until trainer Richard Mandella sees how Rock Hard Ten came out of his nose win over Imperialism in Saturday's $300,000 Strub Stakes and then confers with owners Madeleine Paulson and Ernie Moody.

"Obviously, if everything is good, it's more of what the owners want to do," Mandella said.

After Saturday's race, Moody was leaning toward staying home for the Big Cap.

"I would go with what Richard wants to do," Moody said. "But this is our home turf. I'd like to show him off here."

Mandella is intrigued by another trip to Dubai, having won the World Cup last year with Pleasantly Perfect. Mandella knows what effect the trip can have on a horse. Pleasantly Perfect did not return to racing until the San Diego Handicap last August, finishing second in that race. He later won the $1 million Pacific Classic and finished third in the Breeders' Cup Classic, his final start.

"When you go to Dubai, you have to sacrifice some time, but it's not a bad sacrifice if it works," Mandella said.

Is Rock Hard Ten ready for such a grueling international trip? Mandella says the colt is still learning despite winning 5 of 9 starts and $970,380.

"He's not a real experienced horse - yet. He's got learning to do, and he accomplished that today," Mandella said after Saturday's race.

Rock Hard Ten won the third stakes of his career in the Strub. Ridden by Gary Stevens, Rock Hard Ten was in an extended drive from the end of the backstretch after Stevens sensed he needed to move early to avoid trouble.

Rock Hard Ten made the lead in early stretch and was all out to fight off Imperialism.

"It was heart-stopping," Moody said. "It's exciting to see him fight back and not get passed."

Consolidator heads to San Vicente

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who had already won two of the three open stakes for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita this year, will try for his third stakes win when Consolidator starts in Saturday's $150,000 San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs. Consolidator's top rival is expected to be Roman Ruler, who hasn't raced since finishing fifth as the 2-1 favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

The San Vicente is a top prep to the Santa Catalina March 5 and the San Felipe Stakes on March 19.

Lukas won the San Miguel Stakes last month and Saturday's Sham Stakes with Going Wild.

Bob and Beverly Lewis own Consolidator and Going Wild. Consolidator has won 2 of 7 starts, highlighted by a two-length victory in the Grade 1 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland in October. In his most recent start, Consolidator finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Lone Star Park in October.

Sunday, Consolidator worked five furlongs in 58.60 seconds, the fastest of 44 recorded works at the distance. Lukas is cautious in his approach toward Consolidator's reappearance.

"It's a good spot for him," he said. "I think he'll need a comeback race. We'll see how tight he is. Whatever it is, we can work from there."

Roman Ruler also worked Sunday, going six furlongs from the gate in company. Roman Ruler was timed in 1:11.40. Jerry Bailey will ride Roman Ruler in the San Vicente.

The Grade 2 San Vicente also is expected to include Kirkendahl, who was fifth in the San Rafael Stakes last month.

The San Vicente is the least lucrative of four stakes this weekend, but will be closely watched because of the Triple Crown implications.

Saturday's card also includes the $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at a mile. Sharp Lisa, the winner of the Santa Ynez Breeders' Cup Stakes on Jan. 17, heads a field that will include Memorette, On London Time, and Pussycat Doll.

Sunday's card features two stakes for females: the $250,000 Santa Maria Handicap, a Grade 1 at 1 1/16 miles, and the $200,000 La Canada Stakes, a Grade 2 at 1 1/8 miles.

Musical Chimes, a three-time stakes winner who has earned $954,489, will make her main-track debut in the Santa Maria. Her last stakes win came against males in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile in October.

The La Canada field is led by Girl Warrior and A.P. Adventure, the first two finishers in the El Encino Stakes on Jan. 16.

Diligent Prospect out 60 days

Diligent Prospect, a promising 3-year-old who won an optional claimer over seven furlongs in late December, is off the Triple Crown trail because of a shin injury, trainer Doug O'Neill said.

Diligent Prospect is being given a 60-day break, O'Neill said. He was being considered for Saturday's Turf Paradise Derby.

"We'll have to have a strong fall campaign," O'Neill said. "It's very subtle, but he's too good a horse."

Owned by Royce Jaime and Ty Leatherman, Diligent Prospect missed seven months last year because of sore shins.

Comeback achieved, Solis looks ahead

Jockey Alex Solis nearly had a storybook comeback on Saturday.

More than six months after he suffered a broken vertebra in a spill at Del Mar in late July, Solis finished second in the Strub Stakes aboard Imperialism.

The first thing on his mind after the race was riding the colt in the Santa Anita Handicap.

"I'm pretty sure I'll give him a better ride next time," Solis said. "If I hadn't been so strong on him, he could have gotten there. I was a little too aggressive. I should have finessed him a little bit."

Solis was winless with two mounts on Saturday. Afterward, he said he was nervous at the start of the day.

"It was all butterflies when I went into the gate for the first time," he said. "I'm tired. Not so much from the riding, but the hype, the adrenaline."

Solis scored the first victory of his comeback in Sunday's second race aboard the first-time starter Indian Flare. Trained by Bobby Frankel, Indian Flare rallied from third to win by five lengths, finishing seven furlongs in 1:22.61.

"I got my life back again," Solis said of the comeback. "I'm so grateful to God. This is what I love."

Two surface switches

Post time for Sunday's third race was delayed by 10 minutes after the track made a late decision to transfer the race from turf to dirt because of morning rain.

The third race was the first leg of the pick six. With nine minutes to the original post time, the track announced the surface switch for the third and fifth races, both of which were scheduled for the hillside turf course.

There was concern about crossing over the main track between the hillside portion of the turf course and the main turf oval.

The seventh race, scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on turf, stayed on the grass.

Cohen gets three-day suspension

Apprentice jockey David Cohen has been suspended for three days for causing interference in Saturday's sixth race. Cohen rode Commercialize, who was disqualified from second to third for interference in the stretch.

The suspension begins Wednesday and continues through Friday.

Through Sunday, Cohen had won seven races from 74 mounts at the meeting.