02/15/2005 12:00AM

Smelling roses with filly champion


ARCADIA, Calif. - Aside from pure common sense, there is another good reason maiden winner Wooden Ticket will not be rushed onto the Kentucky Derby trail by owner-breeder Marty Wygod.

"I already have my Derby horse," he said.

The message was clear - the filly Sweet Catomine is headed for a showdown with colts this spring. Although Wygod's well-bred colt Wooden Ticket - a son of A.P. Indy out of Grade 1 winner Exotic Wood - overcame trouble Sunday to score a promising debut victory, he will run next in a simple one-other-than allowance going two turns.

Sweet Catomine also gets an easy race next time, if the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks on March 13 can be called easy. Afterward, Wygod and trainer Julio Canani are expected to aim Sweet Catomine to the Santa Anita Derby on April 9. She looked good working five furlongs in 1:01.40 at 9:20 Tuesday morning under jockey Corey Nakatani.

"She was breezing, her action was good, and I'm very happy with how she's coming along," Canani said.

The time for the work was strong on a deep, slow track.

"Not a little bit deep, it was deeper than hell," Canani said.

No matter. Sweet Catomine floated through the work and looked good finishing. She has put on weight since a modest Jan. 16 comeback, a 2 1/2-length victory in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel.

A second good-looking filly

Last week was a good one for Wygod, who bred and owns a second promising 3-year-old filly who might provide a suitable Kentucky Oaks candidate if Sweet Catomine ends up in the Kentucky Derby. Revealed returned to form Feb. 10 in an allowance turf sprint, and Wygod said the filly, trained by John Shirreffs, would probably ship out for her next start.

"We're going to look around the country and find a nice mile and sixteenth Grade 2 or Grade 3 race where she doesn't have to go against the tough ones," Wygod said. "We'll see if she can relax, and if so, it could be exciting."

Revealed finished nowhere in her only two-turn start, the Santa Ysabel Jan. 16, when circumstances worked against her. Her turf allowance victory last week was her second win from three starts, and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 87.

As for Wooden Ticket, he came out of his debut victory (79 Beyer) with three stitches on the outside of his right leg after sustaining a deep cut when he steadied at the quarter pole.

Busy morning for Nakatani

Before getting aboard Sweet Catomine at Santa Anita, Nakatani was at Hollywood Park, where he worked Wilko, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, in preparation for his comeback next month.

Wilko was timed in 1:00.20 for five furlongs. It was the sixth-best of 66 works at the distance, and he did it so effortlessly that the track's clockers designated the work as breezing.

"Corey was real happy with the way he went and said he'd come back and work him again next week," said Craig Dollase, the trainer of Wilko. "It was the first time Corey had been on him since his last race."

Wilko completed a 12-race 2-year-old campaign by finishing third in the Hollywood Futurity behind Declan's Moon and Giacomo.

Dollase said Wilko's intended first start of the year is the Santa Catalina Stakes on March 5, but he has the March 19 San Felipe as a back-up. Regardless, Wilko will use one of those races as a prep for the Santa Anita Derby on April 9.

"The weather might be an issue," Dollase said, referring to rainstorms that are predicted in upcoming days and that could hinder training.

Declan's Moon ready to go

March 5 will not come soon enough for Declan's Moon, who worked seven furlongs in 1:26 Tuesday morning at Hollywood Park. "He'd be ready to run next week if they had anything," trainer Ron Ellis said.

Declan's Moon worked under Carlos Arias, and will make his first start as a 3-year-old in the Grade 2 Santa Catalina Stakes at a 1 1/16 miles, where he could meet Wilko.

Declan's Moon won all four starts last year and cemented the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old by winning the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity on Dec 18.

"I'm biding my time with him. He doesn't need much," Ellis said.

Deep track, slow works

The Santa Anita racetrack Tuesday was so deep that even fast horses such as Rock Hard Ten worked in slow times. Rock Hard Ten went five furlongs in a laggard 1:04.20.

"It was a little slower than we wanted, but the track is deep," trainer Richard Mandella said.

Only one of the 91 works at five furlongs was timed in under a minute. The work was the first for Rock Hard Ten since he won the Grade 2 Strub Stakes on Feb 5. With a patch of wet weather ahead, Mandella said the workout was "just to get something in before the rain."

Rock Hard Ten runs next in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 5, along with Mandella-trained San Pasqual winner Congrats. Congrats worked a half-mile Tuesday in 49.60. Salt Champ, the top-class mare who won her U.S. debut Jan. 30 in the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap, worked five furlongs in 1:01.40. She runs next March 12 in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Handicap.

Elusive Diva breaks minute barrier

Elusive Diva will be a contender Monday in the Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap for fillies and mares, and if her Tuesday workout at Santa Anita was an indication, she could not be coming up to the mile turf race any better. A five-furlong work in 59.60 seconds was the fastest by .80.

"It was under wraps, too," trainer Mark Glatt said. "She's doing real good."

Unless rain forces the Buena Vista off turf, a large field led by the Grade 1 Matriarch winner, Intercontinental, is expected. Intercontinental was assigned high weight of 121 pounds. Elusive Diva gets in at 116.

"I don't want to run on a soft turf course," Glatt said, "I wouldn't want that element of doubt going into a big race."

Bejarano to ride Going Wild

With Victor Espinoza committed to ride Declan's Moon in the Santa Catalina, trainer D. Wayne Lukas has chosen Rafael Bejarano to ride Going Wild, whom Espinoza rode to victory in the Sham Stakes.

Lukas's other top 3-year-old, Consolidator, will come back in the San Felipe. Lukas blamed himself for Consolidator's disappointing race in last Sunday's San Vicente Stakes, in which he finished last of four.

"I did such a piss-poor job," Lukas said. "The weather was bad and I babied him. It was one of my worst training jobs. I embarrassed Bob and Beverly Lewis, the horse, and myself. After 40 years, you'd think I'd know something. I was sick."

Giacomo's next up in the air

Giacomo, third most recently in the Sham, worked five furlongs in 1:02 Tuesday at Hollywood Park. His trainer, John Shirreffs, said he was not sure where Giacomo would run next, though the Santa Catalina and San Felipe are possible.

"I don't want to stack up that many races" before the Kentucky Derby, Shirreffs said.

* Martin Pedroza worked Truly a Judge a half-mile Tuesday at Santa Anita in 47.40 seconds, breezing. The Grade 3 winner will run next in the Santa Anita Handicap.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman