10/29/2007 12:00AM

Sibling to star may need more time

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - The long-term prospects for Billion Buck Baby have trainer Vladimir Cerin's attention as much as the colt's chances in his career debut in Wednesday's sixth race at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting.

A half-brother to five-time stakes winner Rock Hard Ten, Billion Buck Baby is understandably well-regarded, but Cerin is reluctant to predict a win in Wednesday's one-mile grass race for maidens.

"I think he's a work in progress," Cerin said. "He's a very handsome, long-striding individual. I think he will get better and better as time goes on. I don't know what to expect."

Billion Buck Baby is owned by Mercedes Stable, which also campaigned Rock Hard Ten. Trained by Richard Mandella and Jason Orman, Rock Hard Ten won 7 of 11 starts and $1,870,380 in 2004-05, including a runner-up finish in the 2004 Preakness Stakes and a victory in the 2005 Santa Anita Handicap. He stands at stud in Kentucky.

Cerin has taken several steps to have Billion Buck Baby ready for Wednesday. He has taken the colt to the starting gate "about 50 times," but is still concerned about how he will break. "He's not real quick in the first couple of jumps," Cerin said. "He's pretty fit, but he hasn't been the quickest learner. I want him to do well at the end of the race."

Starting Billion Buck Baby in a one-mile turf race plays to the colt's pedigree, Cerin said. Billion Buck Baby is by Theatrical out of Tersa, a Mr. Prospector mare who was the champion 2-year-old filly in France in 1988.

"He's a Theatrical, so I would say that would be his preferred surface," Cerin said.

As for the late start to Billion Buck Baby's career, Cerin said, "That's perfect for that pedigree. You don't want them running earlier than this."

Billion Buck Baby must beat Royal Vision and Just Julian. Royal Vision was second in a one-mile maiden race on turf on Oct. 19 after leading by three lengths on the turn. Jockey Corey Nakatani may have moved too soon in that race and has the mount again aboard Royal Vision, the likely favorite.

Just Julian was third in a maiden race over 1 1/8 miles on turf on Oct. 6, leading at the eighth pole before losing by a length.