01/08/2004 1:00AM

Santa Catalina just around corner


ARCADIA, Calif. - Santa Anita has three stakes scheduled this weekend, but you could be excused for already looking forward to the following weekend, when the West's best 3-year-olds, including Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Action This Day, take their first tentative steps toward the Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby in the Grade 2, $150,000 Santa Catalina Stakes on Jan. 17.

Among those likely to face Action This Day is St Averil, who finished second in last month's Hollywood Futurity and came back Thursday to work a sharp five furlongs in 59.40 seconds for trainer Rafael Becerra.

"He's been training very good since the Futurity," Becerra said following the work. "We're going to nominate to the Santa Catalina and take a look at it. We'll see how he comes out of the work and who else nominates."

St Averil worked in company with the 3-year-old filly Rahy Dolly, who finished second in last month's Hollywood Starlet. Becerra said Rahy Dolly, whose work was timed at 59.60 seconds, is pointing for the Grade 2, $150,000 Santa Ynez Stakes at seven furlongs Jan. 19.

"We can wait for a two-turn race, but she's working too good, so why not do it?" Becerra said. "And we want to stay away from Mandella's filly."

Mandella's filly, in this case, is Halfbridled, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner who is scheduled to make her 3-year-old debut in the Grade 1, $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile Feb. 15. She breezed a leisurely six furlongs in 1:17.20 on Thursday morning.

Looking elsewhere

"We're not going to go fast with her for awhile," Mandella said, pointing out that Halfbridled's race is more than one month away, and that she has a tendency to get aggressive when trained more seriously. "It was designed as a slow work. It's nice that you can do it with her. Some don't want to cooperate, but she's always good."

Several other 3-year-old fillies are looking to avoid Halfbridled by going in either the Santa Ynez or, if eligible, a Sunshine Millions race for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 24. Whoopi Cat is scheduled to race in the Santa Ynez, as is perhaps Class Above, who worked five furlongs in 59 seconds Thursday morning for trainer Bob Baffert.

Yearly Report, another Baffert trainee, worked a half-mile in 46 seconds, the best time of 24 at the distance. Since Yearly Report was bred in California, Baffert is considering sending her to Florida for the Sunshine Millions.

Silent Sighs, who won the California Breeders' Champion Stakes the first week of the meet, is under consideration for the Santa Ynez and Sunshine Millions, though trainer Julio Canani said Thursday that the Santa Ynez was the far more likely spot. Canani and jockey David Flores said Silent Sighs has trained sensationally since an adjustment was made in her blinkers.

"I made the inside blinker a little bigger than the outside," Canani said. "It helps her change leads. She didn't want to change leads."

Avanzado may be retired

The splint bone injury suffered recently by the Grade 1-winning sprinter Avanzado may force his retirement, according to Michael Cooper, who manages the Cee's Stable partnership, which owns Avanzado, a South American import.

"He might be done," Cooper said. "I was originally going to run in him in Dubai, then retire him. I was going to start him at stud in South America, then shuttle him here, but he might go to Kentucky first now."

Cooper said that Tizbud, sidelined since his victory in the California Cup Classic, has yet to return to serious training.

"He's going to be X-rayed on Saturday, and then we'll see if we can start breezing him," Cooper said.

Adoration to await Santa Maria

Adoration, the Breeders' Cup Distaff winner, was nominated to Saturday's San Gorgonio, but trainer David Hofmans said he never had any intention of running her on the grass.

"I just did it in case the race came off the grass. We wanted to be ready," Hofmans said. "She's headed to the Santa Maria." The Santa Maria, a Grade 1 race at 1 1/16 miles, is Feb. 16.

Vacation is over for Lion Heart

Lion Heart got some time off after his victory in the Hollywood Futurity, but he was back galloping Thursday.

"It was good to give him a break. He hadn't had a break since he started racing," said his trainer, Patrick Biancone.

Lion Heart, an unbeaten colt, is not scheduled to race again until the Grade 2, $200,000 San Rafael Stakes at one mile March 6.

Misty'sgoldentouch out of San Miguel

Baffert had planned on running Misty'sgoldentouch in Sunday's Grade 3, $100,000 San Miguel Stakes, but Misty'sgoldentouch became ill Thursday and is out of the six-furlong race.

"He got sick today," Baffert said Thursday. "We had to treat him with penicillin, and that has Procaine, and you can't run on Procaine, so this knocks him out awhile."

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen