02/11/2005 1:00AM

Roman Ruler out of San Vicente

Roman Ruler at Santa Anita on Friday under exercise rider Dana Barnes.

A foot injury suffered by Roman Ruler that will keep him out of Sunday's Grade 2, $150,000 at Santa Anita is the latest hiccup for a promising colt whose career has been marked by brilliant performances and minor, ill-timed setbacks.

Roman Ruler was entered on Friday morning in the seven-furlong San Vicente, but trainer Bob Baffert said Friday afternoon that Roman Ruler would not run.

"The thing is only one month old," Baffert said of a quarter crack that flared anew on Friday.

Roman Ruler has battled foot problems throughout his career. This past week, noted blacksmith Ian McKinlay flew in from New Jersey to patch a quarter crack on Roman Ruler's left front hoof and put new shoes on both his front feet.

"It was a pretty fresh quarter crack," McKinlay said Friday.

On Friday afternoon, Baffert phoned McKinlay and told him the foot had flared anew. McKinlay said he would return to California next week to work on the foot, but said the setback should not keep Roman Ruler out of action very long at all. Baffert agreed.

"He's pretty fit," Baffert said. "He's fit enough to go a mile."

Baffert said he did not know where or when Roman Ruler would run next.

"I have to get the foot right," he said. "I might have to go out of town and run."

Baffert was reluctant to run Roman Ruler on a hard, sealed track. That looms as a possibility on Sunday, because Southern California again is going through a spell of frequent rainstorms, during which Santa Anita's main track is sealed to prevent moisture from seeping into the surface. It is not an ideal situation for a horse with foot trouble.

"That's what got him screwed up before," Baffert said. "It's a letdown, but what are you going to do?"

Roman Ruler had trained well in the week since McKinlay had worked on him, Baffert said earlier this week. Baffert has trained Roman Ruler with bar shoes on his front feet for much of his career. McKinlay put conventional racing plates on him after dealing with the quarter-crack patch.

The new shoes "have a new type of padding to get a horse up in his heels," McKinlay said.

"It's a standard shoe, with padding. It takes away the pounding. We had to glue on both fronts. It's more preventative than anything."

Roman Ruler has not raced since he finished fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Oct. 30. He was bothered all last year by an undescended testicle that was removed following the Breeders' Cup. Baffert said Roman Ruler had been easier to handle in the mornings as a result.

There have been high hopes for Roman Ruler from the start. The son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus was purchased as a yearling for $500,000 by the Fog City Stable of Bill Bianco and David Shimmon. In his debut last summer at Hollywood Park, Roman Ruler won by four lengths. A subsequent seven-length victory in Del Mar's Best Pal Stakes, in which Roman Ruler nimbly sidestepped a stricken rival, made him the nation's most talked-about 2-year-old to that point.

But Roman Ruler was upset in the Del Mar Futurity by Declan's Moon, who went on to win the Hollywood Futurity and the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. Roman Ruler won his next start, the Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, but did not look sharp defeating a field of second-rate rivals.

Roman Ruler wore blinkers for the first time in the Norfolk. Baffert removed them for the Breeders' Cup. Once again, as in his previous four starts, Roman Ruler was the favorite. But he turned in an uncharacteristically dull performance, then was given a lengthy vacation to prepare for a spring campaign.

- additional reporting by Brad Free