12/10/2004 12:00AM

Sharp Lisa ready to rebound


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - In a seven-week span earlier this year, Sharp Lisa took a quick journey to nearly the top of racing.

The 2-year-old Sharp Lisa went from winning a maiden race at Calder to placing in a Grade 2 at Keeneland to finishing unplaced in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Looking back, trainer Doug O'Neill thinks the schedule was asking too much of Sharp Lisa. For that reason, she has not started since finishing sixth in the Juvenile Fillies.

The break is also why O'Neill expects Sharp Lisa to be in top form in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes on Dec. 19, the year's final major race for 2-year-old fillies.

"She had three races in seven weeks," O'Neill said. "For a 2-year-old filly, it was insane."

Sharp Lisa was purchased by Paul Reddam and Suarez Racing after she won a six-furlong maiden race at Calder by 6 1/2 lengths on Sept. 12. From that point, O'Neill began training her. She finished second by a head in the Grade 2 Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 8 and raced wide on both turns in the Breeders' Cup.

O'Neill backed off Sharp Lisa following that race and pointed her for the Starlet, which is run over 1 1/16 miles and has an estimated purse of $350,000.

"It took her about a week to start attacking the feed tub again," O'Neill said. "I think she's filled out some since the Breeders' Cup. For not being real big, she covers a lot of ground on the track."

Sharp Lisa worked six furlongs in 1:13.80 on Friday, a workout that impressed O'Neill.

"I got her last eighth in 11 and four-fifths" seconds, O'Neill said. "It was absolutely incredible."

The Starlet should have a decent-sized field with the absence of Sweet Catomine, the division leader. Sweet Catomine is being pointed for the $100,000 Santa Ysabel over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita on Jan. 9.

Marty Wygod, the owner of Sweet Catomine, is starting Revealed in the Starlet. Revealed won a maiden race in her career debut on Nov. 21.

The other probable starters for the Starlet include Charming Colleen, Kenza, Memorette, No Bull Baby, Northern Mischief, and Splendid Blended. No Bull Baby won the Moccasin Stakes last month.

Much riding on Futurity outcome

The Starlet is the final Grade 1 of the Hollywood Park fall meeting. Next Saturday, the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity will play a deciding role in the voting for the Eclipse Award for the nation's outstanding 2-year-old male.

Any of three candidates - Declan's Moon, Proud Accolade, and Wilko - can stake a claim to the title with a win the Futurity, which has an estimated purse of $400,000.

Declan's Moon, unbeaten in three starts, has won two stakes - the Del Mar Futurity and the Hollywood Prevue Stakes. Proud Accolade won the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park in October, but was upset in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile by Wilko.

Other probable starters for the Futurity are Bushwacker, General Jumbo, Giacomo, and Southern Africa.

The Hollywood Park fall meeting ends on Monday, Dec. 20. The program is highlighted by the $150,000 Dahlia Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on turf for fillies and mares.

Lower purses to start Santa Anita

Santa Anita will offer lower overnight purses than it offered at the start of the 2003-04 meeting. The track released its first condition book on Friday, covering the first two weeks of the meeting that begins Dec. 26.

The purse for a maiden special weight race for 2-year-olds over six furlongs was $47,000 last year, but is $44,000 in the new first condition book.

Claiming purses are also affected. A maiden race for $28,000 to $32,000 claimers over six furlongs has been cut by $1,000 to $19,000. A sprint race for $14,000 to $16,000 claimers has been cut by $1,000, to $20,000.

The purses are similar to those Santa Anita offered at the end of its 2003-04 meeting last April. In late January, the track announced a 6.5 percent purse cut because of poor handle.

Valenzuela can only sit and wait

Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, who has not ridden since July 1, is anxiously awaiting a decision by an administrative law judge on an appeal of a suspension issued in August by the Del Mar stewards. The suspension prohibited Valenzuela from riding for the rest of the year.

The judge heard Valenzuela's appeal last month, but no decision has been issued. When a decision is reached, the case will be heard by the California Horse Racing Board, which can reject, modify, or accept the decision.

Valenzuela was suspended for the remainder of 2004 by Del Mar stewards Ingrid Fermin, George Slender, and Tom Ward for failing to take a hair follicle test at Hollywood Park on July 1. In addition, they recommended that Valenzuela "not be considered for future licensing by the California Horse Racing Board in any capacity."

Fermin has subsequently been named the executive director of the CHRB, a position she will take in early 2005.

The hair follicle test was part of an order issued in May by the CHRB. Valenzuela was suspended for four months by the CHRB on May 18 for missing a mandatory drug test in January, a violation of his conditional license, which has been in place since December 2001. Valenzuela was given three months' credit for time served from late January to late April and served the remaining month in June.

Valenzuela, whose career has been plagued by substance abuse problems, said he is desperate to return to riding.

"I wish I was riding, of course," he said in a phone conversation on Friday. "I've kept up with a few trainers. I've been going to [substance abuse] meetings and going to counseling."

In 2003, Valenzuela was the leading rider at all five major meetings in Southern California. His biggest win came in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff aboard Adoration.