10/16/2001 11:00PM

Sponge found in another Oct. 4 runner

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ARCADIA, Calif. - While the California Horse Racing Board continues its investigation into the sponging of three horses last week at Santa Anita - the sponges were discovered before the horses raced - a fourth incident has surfaced that might have compromised the maiden Yukon Charley in a race Oct. 4.

Yukon Charley, based at Hollywood Park with trainer Pico Perdomo, vanned to Santa Anita the morning of the race. Third choice in the eighth race at 5-1, Yukon Charley finished third in the mile race for California-bred, $32,000 maiden-claimers. Perdomo said Yukon Charley "did a couple things in the race" that struck him as unusual. The maiden washed out, pulled early, then went one-paced.

It was not until one week after the race that the sponge was discovered. Perdomo could not determine how long the sponge had been in Yukon Charley's nasal passage. He said Yukon Charley walked for six days after the race, and ponied the morning of Oct. 11. Afterward, while the horse was walking in the two ring, Perdomo said, the sponge "was coming out his nose. I've never seen anything like it."

Perdomo stressed that it was "impossible to say when" the sponge was placed in Yukon Charley. "It's hard to say when, and it's hard to say why," Perdomo said. Yukon Charley, a 3-year-old gelding, had finished third in his most recent start at Fairplex Park. The race at Santa Anita was won by 2-1 favorite Milenarian.

The Yukon Charley incident suggests the disturbing possibility that sponging is more widespread than believed. The three horses sponged last week were stabled at Santa Anita, but Yukon Charley is based at Hollywood Park and was at Santa Anita only on race day. Two of the three Santa Anita-based sponged horses (Spiderette and My Sweet Lucy) were scratched the morning of the race. The other (Tonietta) was not scheduled for a race.

CHRB investigator Mike Kilpack, citing Board policy, declined comment on the sponging investigation.

Notable Career from Baffert to Spawr

When Grade 1 winner Notable Career tries to resurrect her career Nov. 3 in the California Cup Matron, she will have a new trainer. Golden Eagle Farm owner John Mabee has transferred last year's Oak Leaf Stakes winner from Bob Baffert to Bill Spawr, and will point to the $150,000 Matron at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Notable Career, a 3-year-old by Avenue of Flags, won three races and $327,855 from nine starts for Baffert. In addition to the Oak Leaf, she won the Grade 3 Landaluce last July at Hollywood Park.

In two starts as a 3-year-old, wearing front wraps, Notable Career has been unable to reproduce her 2-year-old form. She finished last in the Torrey Pines at Del Mar on Aug. 31, and next-to-last in a turf allowance at Santa Anita on Oct. 4. Spawr, who trains 15 runners for Golden Eagle, also is pointing 3-year-old filly Song of the Moment to the $150,000 Cal Cup Distaff. Previously based in northern California with Greg Gilchrist, Song of the Moment has won three races and $132,900 from 11 starts.

Romanceishope to Cal Cup Classic

Romanceishope, third-place finisher on Saturday in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby, came out of the race well and is pointing for the $250,000 California Cup Classic. Winner of the Del Mar Derby and Snow Chief Stakes early this year, Romanceishope was beaten a neck and a nose at odds of 8-5 in the Oak Tree Derby.

"He was in a bad spot all the way," trainer Jenine Sahadi said. Romanceishope was pinned inside in the slow-paced race, challenged into the lane, then outfinished on the outside. A 3-year-old by In Excess, Romanceishope will vie for Cal Cup favoritism with Longacres Mile winner Irisheyesareflying.

Sahadi's second Cal Cup starter will be Spinelessjellyfish, who finished sixth in his most recent start Oct. 7 in the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile. Previously, Spinelessjellyfish dead-heated with Native Desert in a Sept. 3 stakes at Bay Meadows. Native Desert, winner of the 1999 Cal Cup Mile and runner-up last year, is pointing for his fourth start in the race. He finished third in the 1998 Cal Cup Mile.

American System, go

American System is expected to be favored Saturday in the $75,000 Sunny Slope Stakes for 2-year-olds. Trained by Eduardo Inda, American System earned a 97 Beyer Speed Figure winning a maiden race Sept. 30. None of the other likely starters in the six-furlong Sunny Slope have come close to that figure. Others expected to start include Cappuchino, Crooked Key, Ecstatic, Historic Speech, Janadel, Due Season, and Roman Dancer.

Juvenile fillies take the spotlight Sunday in the $75,000 Anokia at six furlongs. Expected starters include Asian Adventure, Candor, Miss Louisett, Ponche De Leona, and Wild and Icy.