03/08/2005 1:00AM

Roman Ruler may stay put

Roman Ruler could make his first start as a 3-year-old in either the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita or the Gotham at Aqueduct, both on March 19.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Roman Ruler's feet and work schedule will determine where he makes his 3-year-old debut, and it might be close to home. Trainer Bob Baffert said Tuesday that Roman Ruler may stay at Santa Anita for the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe Stakes on March 19, rather than ship to Aqueduct for the Gotham Stakes, scheduled to be run as a one-turn mile, the same day.

"If I run him two turns, naturally he's going to need [the race]," said trainer Bob Baffert. "With his foot, it's a day-to-day deal. The quarter crack is growing out; our main thing is the foot."

Roman Ruler was scheduled to make his first start of the year Feb. 13 in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes, but scratched when his quarter crack erupted.

While the Kentucky Derby remains the goal, Baffert has repeatedly stated that Roman Ruler will not be sacrificed for one race. "I'm not going to get in a hurry with him," said Baffert. "He's such a good horse. If he makes it, he makes it. If he doesn't, he doesn't. If you have a quality horse, you just want to keep them sound."

Baffert said Roman Ruler was expected to work this week.

Baffert's San Vicente winner, Fusaichi Rock Star, has hit a snag. Fusaichi Rock Star came down with a fever over the weekend, and Baffert is losing time.

"He's just getting over it, and I can't can do anything with him," he said Tuesday, adding that Fusaichi Rock Star could return to the track by the end of the week.

Baffert's top 3-year-old fillies both worked Monday - Pussycat Doll went six furlongs in a bullet 1:11.40, and comebacker Inspiring earned a bullet for a 58.80-second gate work. Pussycat Doll runs Sunday in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks. She scratched from the Las Virgenes on Feb. 12.

"I didn't want to run on a sealed track," Baffert said.

Pussycat Doll finished second to Sweet Catomine in her last start Jan. 16. The Santa Anita Oaks field will include Sweet Catomine, Pussycat Doll, Cream Donut Keith, and Guaranteed Victory.

Inspiring has not raced since winning the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes last August, and her winter comeback has been stalled by weather. "Now that it stopped raining, I can get her ready quick," Baffert said.

Inspiring is one of the 23 fillies listed in the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager pool. Baffert has not chosen a comeback spot for the filly.

Mandella has two for Santa Margarita

One week after running one-two with Rock Hard Ten and Congrats in the Santa Anita Handicap, trainer Richard Mandella will aim for a similar feat in the filly-mare equivalent to the Big Cap. Mandella will start co-favorites Miss Loren and Salt Champ on Saturday in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Handicap

Miss Loren will be making her first start for Mandella. She was sold to Ernie Moody's Mercedes Stable and transferred to Mandella after winning the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap. "I breezed her [Sunday] and she went terrific," Mandella said, adding that regular rider Jose Valdivia breezed her the five furlongs in 1:02.80.

Assigned high weight of 118 pounds, Miss Loren will try to become the second 7-year-old to win the Santa Margarita.

Salt Champ, who won her U.S. debut in the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap at seven furlongs, will stretch out with 117 pounds and will be ridden by Alex Solis. Her regular rider, Gary Stevens, will be out of town Saturday to ride Scipion in the Louisiana Derby.

Trainer Ron McAnally will seek his seventh Santa Margarita win with Good Student, runner-up by a nose to Miss Loren in the Santa Maria. Good Student will carry 114 pounds.

The Santa Margarita field is expected to include Miss Loren, 118; Salt Champ, 117; A.P. Adventure, Dream of Summer, Hollywood Story, and Sweet Lips, all 116; and Good Student, 114.

Chandtrue fine after first defeat

Chandtrue suffered his first career loss Saturday in the Baldwin Stakes, yet came out of the race in good condition. Trainer Bob Hess Jr. said Chandtrue would go right on with his campaign.

"There's no bad news other than the result," Hess said Tuesday. "He's not sick, he's not hurt, and his legs are popsicle ice-cold."

The Baldwin was Chandtrue's first start since winning four starts last summer, including the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile on July 17. Bet to 8-5 in the Baldwin despite a seven-month layoff, Chandtrue failed to get involved and finished sixth, beaten 9 1/2 lengths. Hess said Chandtrue would return to the track Wednesday and will aim for the $75,000 San Pedro Stakes, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds March 26.

Choctaw Nation to Dubai

San Diego Handicap winner Choctaw Nation, fourth in his Feb. 26 comeback in the Grade 2 San Carlos, is headed to the $6 million Dubai World Cup. Trainer Jeff Mullins said Choctaw Nation will work this week, then ship to Dubai along with Godolphin Mile probable My Cousin Matt. Choctaw Nation's Feb. 26 start was his first since finishing fourth in the Pacific Classic last Aug. 22.

Island Fashion showing bad trend

Island Fashion does not have an alibi for her ninth-place finish Saturday in the Santa Anita Handicap. "She was training better than last year, but she just wasn't there," said trainer Marcelo Polanco on Tuesday.

Since finishing second in the 2004 Big Cap, Island Fashion's Beyer Speed Figures have declined, and she has won just 1 of 7. Island Fashion earned Beyers of 100 or more in four starts leading to the 2004 Big Cap, but she has failed to reach the figure since then.

The bottom line is Island Fashion has lost a step since last year's Big Cap. "The way she acts and the way she works, she is the same, but on paper it doesn't show," Polanco said.

Polanco also said Island Fashion came out of the race "very good" but that he and owner Jeff Nielsen have not determined her immediate campaign.

West sets plans for two

Bluesthestandard, who scratched from an optional claiming race Saturday because of the track surface, could aim for the $100,000 Phoenix Gold Cup on March 19 at Turf Paradise, trainer Ted H. West said Tuesday. West said that Kirkendahl will aim for the San Pedro Stakes here on March 26.