09/28/2005 12:00AM

Roman Ruler stays home for Goodwood

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Roman Ruler will face older horses Saturday.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Roman Ruler, a two-time stakes winner this summer, will start in Saturday's $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita and will not be sent to New York for the Jockey Club Gold Cup on the same day, trainer Bob Baffert said on Wednesday.

Baffert said the competition in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and concern about traveling were the principal reasons for the change in plans.

"I don't want to ship," Baffert said. "I don't feel good about going. I think that race is so competitive and with the ship there it wouldn't work. The Jockey Club Gold Cup is a tough race."

Owned by Fog City Stable, Roman Ruler, 3, has not started since finishing third in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 27. A four-time stakes winner, Roman Ruler will make his first start against older horses in the Goodwood over 1 1/8 miles.

The Grade 2 Goodwood will have a small field, and the presence of Roman Ruler adds much-needed depth to the race. The top contenders are Rock Hard Ten, who has not started since winning the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap in March; and Choctaw Nation, who won the San Diego Handicap in July and finished a fast-closing fourth in the Pacific Classic on Aug. 21. Other candidates are Gotaghostofachance, Preachinatthebar, and Total Impact.

Rock Hard Ten will carry starting highweight of 121 pounds, with Choctaw Nation at 116 and Roman Ruler at 114.

Baffert made the decision to keep Roman Ruler in California after the colt worked a half-mile in 48.20 seconds on Wednesday.

"He breezed well," Baffert said. "But when you ship you lose a little bit. You can get bad weather back there."

Baffert said David Flores was likely to ride Roman Ruler, but that plans were not final. Baffert said he will also run Preachinatthebar, who was third in the San Diego Handicap in July. "No one is talking about him," Baffert said.

The last 3-year-old to win the Goodwood was Tiznow in 2000. He went on to win the BC Classic at Churchill Downs that year.

Baffert said Roman Ruler's performance on Saturday will determine whether he starts in the $4 million BC Classic at Belmont Park on Oct. 29. "We'll know more after this race," he said.

Island Fashion to run - but where?

Island Fashion will start this weekend in a major stakes, but a decision on whether she runs in Saturday's Yellow Ribbon Stakes over 1 1/4 miles on turf or Sunday's $250,000 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on the main track might not be made until the last minute.

"It depends on how many horses are in there," trainer Marcelo Polanco said. "She's run good on dirt and turf."

A winner of 6 of 24 starts and $1,917,970, Island Fashion, 5, is winless in five starts on turf but was second in the Grade 1 John Mabee Handicap on that surface at Del Mar in July. In her last start, she finished ninth against males in the $1 million Pacific Classic. In 2004, she ran second against males in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap.

In 2004, Island Fashion won the Lady's Secret BC Handicap and finished fifth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Lone Star Park.

Island Fashion may be entered for both races before owner Jeff Nielsen makes his selection.

"It's a tough call," Polanco said. "Everything has to fall into place."

The Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon Stakes is led by Megahertz, a winner of 13 of 32 starts and $1,961,594. Wednesday at Hollywood Park, Megahertz worked a half-mile in 50.20 seconds.

Other candidates are Amorama, Cold Cold Woman, Flip Flop, Halo Ola, Katdogawn, and Winendynme. Amorama won the John Mabee Handicap.

The Lady's Secret BC Handicap is led by Hollywood Story, Quero Quero, Star Parade, and Valentine Dancer.

Valentine Dancer was withdrawn from Wednesday's $100,000 Sen. Ken. Maddy Handicap on the hillside turf course in favor of the Lady's Secret. Trainer Craig Lewis said the prize money was the main reason for the switch to the Sunday race.

"I think she's pretty gifted. She can handle about anything," he said. "She might have some distance limitations, but I think a mile is her best distance. It depends on the shape of the race."

Lewis and owners Al and Sandee Kirkwood are trying to make Valentine Dancer the richest California-bred female in history. Valentine Dancer has earned $1,139,126, leaving her $236,339 behind 1980's star Fran's Valentine.

"If she stays sound, she'll get there," Lewis said. "She's not run a bad race this year."

In eight starts this year, all stakes, Valentine Dancer has won twice and placed second or third in six other races.

Liebau named Hollywood president

As part of the recent ownership change at Hollywood Park, Jack Liebau has been named the track's president, while previous president Rick Baedeker has joined parent company Stockbridge Real Estate Funds as a legislative advisor on the company's racetrack holdings. Baedeker will also be involved with regulatory affairs involving Hollywood Park and Bay Meadows, another property owned by Stockbridge.

Several other management changes were announced on Wednesday for other departments at Hollywood Park. In most cases, officials from Bay Meadows will assume similar capacities at Hollywood Park. Liebau remains president of Bay Meadows.

Stockbridge recently completed the purchase of Hollywood Park for $257.5 million from Churchill Downs Inc.

* Three Degrees, the winner of the Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park in July, will start in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland on Oct. 15, trainer Paddy Gallagher said.