10/17/2002 12:00AM

Speed galore in stakes


ARCADIA, Calif. - Trainer Jim Chapman is convinced that Red Apache is happiest when he finds himself in a battle.

"He loves to fight and he loves having horses around him," Chapman said. "He doesn't work unless he's with other horses."

The style worked in a six-furlong allowance race on Oct. 2, which Red Apache won by a head after dueling for the lead throughout. It will be put to a full test when he starts against nine others in Saturday's $75,000 Sunny Slope Stakes for 2-year-olds over six furlongs at Santa Anita.

Red Apache may go favored in what will be his second stakes appearance. He finished fourth in the Grade 3 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar in mid-August.

"He's still improving," Chapman said. "He looks like a sprinter."

David Flores will ride Red Apache, the third rider change in as many starts. Previous jockey Corey Nakatani is out until next week, recovering from a back injury suffered in a spill last weekend.

Red Apache will be part of a hectic pace. He faces several speed horses, including Jimmy O, the winner of the Beau Brummel Stakes at Fairplex Park; Knightsbridge Road, a stakes winner at Emerald Downs; Only the Best, who won the Malcolm Anderson Stakes at Bay Meadows; and Roll Hennessy Roll, a two-time stakes winner in New Mexico.

If they go too fast, Taliano, the winner of the Barretts Juvenile Stakes, and Hell Cat, who finished second in the Beau Brummel, could be in an ideal spot.

Trained by Jack Carava, Hell Cat won his debut at Del Mar on Aug. 10, but was a well-beaten sixth in the Grade 3 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar 11 days later. In the Beau Brummel, Hell Cat closed from the back of the field to run second to Jimmy O. Through Wednesday, Carava was the leading trainer at the Oak Tree meeting.

Trainer Bob Baffert has two starters - Spensive and Domestic Dispute, who were second and third behind Red Apache on Oct. 2. Domestic Dispute won a maiden race in the final week of the Del Mar meeting. Spensive won a maiden race in his debut at Del Mar on Aug. 26 and returned to finish third behind Jimmy O in the Beau Brummel. Baffert cautioned that Domestic Dispute may not be best over six furlongs.

"I think he wants to run a little farther," he said.

Both of Baffert's starters seek their first stakes wins.

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