09/19/2001 11:00PM

Sigfreto 'heads and tails' the best


POMONA, Calif. - Assuming that Sigfreto negotiates three turns without incident on Saturday at Fairplex Park, the $100,000 Pomona Derby may play out as the biggest mismatch of the Los Angeles County Fair race meet.

Eleven entered the about mile and an eighth Derby, and trainer Doug Peterson is not exaggerating when he says Sigfreto "is heads and tails above the rest." Winner of Del Mar's Oceanside Stakes, and unlucky fourth-place finisher in the Del Mar Derby, Sigfreto faces speedster So Urgent, improving Lotsacoins, Derby Trial winner Huggy Boy, and Mr. Joe C, who finished sixth in the Trial while likely best.

Peterson and owner Richard O'Neill purchased Sigfreto privately for $125,000 before his fourth-place finish June 10 in the Ascot Handicap at Bay Meadows. Peterson cleared up the his stomach ulcers and the colt put on 100 pounds. Sigfreto scored a 39-1 upset July 18 in the Oceanside, and in the Sept. 3 Del Mar Derby, he steadied behind a tiring front-runner on the far turn, re-rallied, and was beaten three lengths.

Peterson said Sigfreto "keeps getting better and stronger. He's sharp now." Matt Garcia rides Sigfreto, who only needs clean sailing. Peterson cautioned "He's a big horse, and if you get him stopped you can't get him going again." Sigfreto has been working on Hollywood Park's five-eighths mile training track; Peterson has no reservations moving to dirt, or onto the tight Fairplex turns.

A four-time winner of $106,272 from 12 starts, Sigfreto must catch So Urgent. Trained by Bob Baffert, So Urgent won consecutive allowance races at Del Mar, though the quality of horses he beat is suspect. He wired weak older allowance runners one start back, and faced three rivals last time. Win or lose, the 4 for 10 colt is the one to catch under Tyler Baze.

The dark horse is Lotsacoins. He beat maiden-40 starter allowance runners one back, then was all-out to beat Calbreds last out. The competition steepens Saturday. Trainer Vladimir Cerin said Lotsacoins "loves the turns, he was going real, real easy" in a bullet workout at Fairplex on Sept. 10.

Mr. Joe C. finished sixth in the Derby Trial, after spotting his field some 15 lengths at the break, making an extended run, then flattening out. The opportunistic winner was perfect-tripper Huggy Boy. Other Derby starters include Ironman Dehere, Waingarth, Lookn East, Dauntiong, Swordfish, and Legendary Weave.

*Budroyale is expected to skip the $100,000 Pomona Invitational Handicap on Sunday. According to trainer Ted H. West, the 121-pound weight assignment was unsatisfactory. Native Desert will be the 122-pound highweight.