07/05/2006 12:00AM

Some of West's best waiting


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Saturday's Hollywood Gold Cup has drawn a field of five, but it is not indicative of the depth of the handicap division in California. There are several more top-class handicap horses that are waiting for stakes at the Del Mar meeting or sidelined with minor injuries.

The Gold Cup field does not include Surf Cat or Dixie Meister, the winner of the two major Gold Cup preps at this meeting. Surf Cat has not started since winning the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap on May 13. He has been fighting a bruised foot and is likely out until the fall, trainer Bruce Headley said.

Dixie Meister, the winner of the Californian Stakes, is bound for the $300,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on July 22, a race expected to draw Spellbinder, who was second in the Mervyn LeRoy; Lucky J.H., the winner of the Ack Ack Handicap on June 10; Texcess, who finished second in the Lone Star Park Handicap on May 29; and That's an Outrage, who finished third in the Californian.

Buzzards Bay, the winner of the Oaklawn Handicap in April, is a

candidate for the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 20. He finished fourth in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 17.

Choctaw Nation will not be running in either the Gold Cup or the San Diego Handicap, a race he has won for the past two years.

In late June, Choctaw Nation was shipped out of trainer Jeff Mullins's barn to Kentucky. Mullins said that owner Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed al Maktoum intended to eventually ship the 6-year-old gelding to Dubai.

Choctaw Nation, a winner of 7 of 15 starts and $1,224,800, finished 10th in the Dubai World Cup in his final start for Mullins. Claimed for $40,000 in his career debut by owner Bob Bone, Choctaw Nation was sold to Sheikh Rashid earlier this year.

Stakes winners point to Del Mar

The Del Mar meeting will figure prominently in the plans for several stakes winners at Hollywood Park last weekend.

Wait a While, the winner of the $750,000 American Oaks on Sunday, has been sent back to trainer Todd Pletcher's base in New York, but she could return to California for the $400,000 Del Mar Oaks on Aug. 19, Pletcher said.

Her other major goal is the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland in October.

Siren Lure, who won his first Grade 1 in Sunday's Triple Bend Handicap, will be pointed for a sprint stakes. The options at Del Mar are the $300,000 Bing Crosby Handicap on July 30 and the Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Handicap on Aug. 20.

Hollywood Story is bound for the $300,000 Clement Hirsch Handicap on Aug. 6 after winning the Vanity Handicap. Trainer John Shirreffs and owner George Krikorian have considered starting Hollywood Story on turf, but will stick with races on the main track.

The Tin Man, the winner of Sunday's American Handicap, will not start at Del Mar. Trainer Richard Mandella said he is being pointed for the Arlington Million at Arlington Park on Aug. 12.

Charming N Lovable will make her next start in the $150,000 San Clemente Handicap at Del Mar on July 29, trainer Paddy Gallagher said. Charming N Lovable won her third straight start and first stakes in Sunday's Flawlessly Stakes.

The $150,000 Sorrento Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on Aug. 5 is a goal for Pinata, the unbeaten winner of Saturday's Landaluce Stakes. Trained by Peter Miller, Pinata stumbled after the race and unseated jockey Martin Pedroza. Miller said Pinata was not injured in the incident.

Dance in the Mood, who won the $750,000 CashCall Mile last Saturday, has returned to Japan.

Gomez in no hurry to return West

Jockey Garrett Gomez, currently based in New York, made a successful raid in Southern California last weekend, winning two races on Sunday, including the American Oaks. It may be a few months before he returns to California on a regular basis.

Gomez has ridden in Kentucky and New York since April and said on Sunday that he plans to stay through the summer. He will return to California in the fall, probably for the Oak Tree meeting, though no plans have been finalized. One factor is where his top horses run in the preps to the Breeders' Cup.

Gomez won riding titles last year at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting and the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting in the fall.

Gomez was lured East to ride for Todd Pletcher after that stable's top jockey, John Velazquez, sustained an injury in a spill at Keeneland in April. Velazquez has since returned to riding.

In the long-term, Gomez is entertaining the idea of riding in California in the fall and winter and Kentucky and New York in the spring and summer.

* Hollywood Park offered a $2 double linking Saturday's CashCall Mile with Sunday's American Oaks. The winning combination of Dance in the Mood ($7.20) with Wait a While ($7.80) returned $47.60. The bet attracted a pool of $75,562, much higher than a typical daily double pool.

* Assistant trainer Mike Sherlock was found to have two fractured ribs after being kicked by Proposed in the moments before Sunday's Vanity Handicap. It is not known how long Sherlock will be out, according to his father, trainer Gary Sherlock. The incident occurred behind the gate when the start of the Vanity was delayed after Star Parade was scratched after becoming unruly in the gate.