03/21/2005 12:00AM

Setbacks for Roman Ruler, Wilko

The Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont last June was one of three stakes wins on the year for Meteor Storm, who goes Sunday in the San Luis Rey.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Roman Ruler and Wilko both emerged from Saturday's a little worse for the wear, and one of them is off the Kentucky Derby trail entirely.

Bob Baffert, the trainer of Roman Ruler, took out the white flag on Sunday morning and surrendered his chase for the Derby with Roman Ruler, who finished last in the San Felipe as the tepid 3-1 favorite. He said Roman Ruler's chronically ailing quarter crack was left bloody after the double whammy of a tightened surface and a brutally rough trip.

"That foot, I need to let it grow out," Baffert said. "He needs three weeks where it's just left alone. We've been treating it like a Band-Aid."

Baffert said jockey Gary Stevens "took care of him."

"He wasn't comfortable on his left lead," Baffert said. "I don't want to ruin the horse. I've got to stop on him and let the whole quarter heal out properly."

Baffert said Bill Bianco and David Shimmon, who own Roman Ruler under the banner of Fog City Stable, "said to do what's right."

"The fever broke," Baffert said, referring to his case of Derby fever. "I don't want to just run a horse in the race. I want to win. At this time of year, you've got to be marching forward. If you want to win the Derby, you can't have any hiccups."

Wilko has another quarter crack

Wilko, who finished fourth in the San Felipe in his first start in three months, emerged from the race with a quarter crack on his right front hoof, giving him a matching set to go along with the old crack he has had on his left front hoof since December. Trainer Craig Dollase said he hopes the setback is only minor, but said he would not know more for another week.

"He definitely had some battle wounds coming out of the race," Dollase said. "We're going to give him a few days, and then decide when's the right time to patch it. You want to get a patch on it, but if you do it too soon, you run the risk of it getting infected. But you don't want to miss too much time. We're stuck between a rock and a hard place."

Dollase said Wilko would be considered for the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 9, or the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland one week later. The Blue Grass affords an extra week, which may be paramount when battling this injury.

"It's been one little thing after another," Dollase said. "We'll know more in a week or so when we get him back to the track. It's unfortunate."

Hard track equals fast times

Saturday's lightning-fast racing surface will cause savvy handicappers to be circumspect regarding the results, since the track favored speed and yielded times that were significantly faster than par.

Most notable was the day's seventh race, in which Family Guy, a maiden 3-year-old California-bred gelding making his third start, sped 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:01.80, only 0.06 shy of the track record set by sprint champion Kona Gold in 1999.

The track condition caused Baffert to scratch Rojo Toro, the morning-line favorite in the ninth race, after the pick six sequence had begun. Baffert had to get special permission from the stewards for the scratch.

"He doesn't want to run at all on a hard track," Baffert said of Rojo Toro. "You can't do that with a horse with issues. The stewards agreed that you've got to take care of your horses first."

Sibille receives Woolf Award

Ray Sibille, who retired from riding last year, on Sunday was presented with the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. In keeping with his penchant for mischief, Sibille began his acceptance remarks with a couple of jokes.

Sibille was presented the award by Gary Stevens, who played Woolf in the movie "Seabiscuit" and wore the silks of owner Charles Howard for the ceremony. Stevens called Sibille "a man that all of us jockeys want to be - he's loyal, he's royal, and he's honest."

Sibille, after taking the trophy from Stevens, opened by looking toward Stevens and saying, "I must be the only George Woolf winner who got the award from George Woolf himself."

Sibille said he had always wanted to get the award while he was still riding. He said he tried to put on silks on Sunday morning, "but I looked like Tim Conway, so I had to put on a regular suit."

"I had a dream career," the 53-year-old Sibille said. "It just ended a little earlier than I wanted it to."

A number of past winners of the Woolf Award were present for the winner's-circle ceremony. Receiving the biggest cheers from the fans when introduced by track announcer Trevor Denman were Hall of Famers Eddie Delahoussaye and Laffit Pincay Jr.

Sibille rode in Southern California from 1981-1993. The biggest victory of his career came in the 1988 Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs with Great Communicator. He won 4,264 races during his career.

Meteor Storm heads San Luis Rey

Meteor Storm will defend his title on Sunday in the Grade 2, $250,000 San Luis Rey Stakes at 1 1/2 miles for turf horses.

The San Luis Rey will be the second start for Meteor Storm since returning from an eight-month layoff. He was fourth in the Kilroe Mile on March 5. Jose Valdivia Jr., who rode Meteor Storm to three stakes victories last year, has the mount.

Bobby Frankel said he would run two horses in the San Luis Rey, Epicentre and the French invader Kurm. Many of the possible runners for the San Luis Rey are eyeing other spots, but still under consideration are Continental Red, Freddy, Gorylla, Special Matter, Stanley Park, Star Over the Bay, Sweet Return, and T.H. Approval.

Sunday at Hollywood Park, Gorylla worked five furlongs in 1:01.60, Stanley Park worked seven furlongs in 1:24, and Freddy covered one mile in 1:39.20.

Saturday, 3-year-old sprinters will compete in the $75,000 San Pedro Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs. El Roblar and White Pine, who scored fast maiden victories earlier this meet, are definite. Only five others were even nominated.

Pure as Gold, who was a six-length winner against maiden claimers on March 11, is "on the fence right now," said trainer Mike Puhich, who said he was not eager to put his speedy colt in against White Pine.