04/10/2003 11:00PM

Star Vega primed for big effort


PHOENIX - It may not have the glamour of Saturday's 3-year-old races, but the Providencia Stakes, at 1 1/8 miles on the turf Sunday at Santa Anita, presents a chance for some wallet-padding.

Star Vega, trained by Jim Cassidy, made a terrific first impression in the United States, finishing a strong-closing second to likely Providencia favorite Major Idea in the March 13 Some Sensation. Star Vega's big rally in the one-mile turf race left her just a half-length shy at 11-1, and there are numerous reasons to believe she can turn the tables on Major Idea. Plus, she figures to go off around 4-1.

In the Some Sensation, Star Vega was making her first start in the U.S., and first start since last October. Major Idea, meanwhile, had been racing throughout the winter for Neil Drysdale and was coming off a fine win over this course Jan. 8. Major Idea had every edge in terms of recency and local experience.

Also, Star Vega got stuck with post 10 in a field of 10 - with a short run to the first turn. Still, Star Vega, who was unbeaten last year in two starts in England, did everything but win.

The post shouldn't matter in the Providencia, because this time these 3-year-old fillies go nine furlongs; there is plenty of time between the gate and the first turn to get over. The added furlong should only help Star Vega, based on the way she finished in the Some Sensation.

The rail was set far out for the Some Sensation, and Cassidy said jockey Mike Smith told him that was the reason Star Vega lost.

"Star Vega is a nice filly and I think she'll run huge," Cassidy said.

Major Idea, a daughter of Cherokee Run, is unbeaten in four career starts, all at one mile on turf, the last two in stakes. She is owned by The Thoroughbred Corp.

Major Idea figures to get hammered in the wagering, and could be as low as 4-5. That's just fine for us Star Vega fans.

Ten Most Wanted on Derby list

As a fan of Ten Most Wanted since his big maiden win at Santa Anita Jan. 5, I took considerable joy in watching his Illinois Derby win.

Ten Most Wanted had been rank and somewhat headstrong in his losses in the Sham Stakes and El Camino Real Derby. In both starts he pulled hard, using up too much energy early and failing to get the position trainer Wally Dollase wanted. That all changed in Chicago. He settled into stride like a pro, moved up into contention with ease, and even overcame trouble when momentarily blocked into the lane. But, when jockey Pat Day asked him for acceleration there was little doubt about the outcome.

Ten Most Wanted wasn't beating Empire Maker or Peace Rules, but among his victims was Lone Star Sky, who has been facing the best of the 3-year-old crop.

Until the Illinois Derby, Ten Most Wanted had yet to run fast, posting Beyer Figures of 85, 79, 86, and 91. But this was his breakthrough race, and he earned a Beyer of 110. That is better than the Beyer Empire Maker earned in the Florida Derby (108), better than Peace Rules's Beyer in the Louisiana Derby (105), and better than Badge of Silver's Beyers of 108 in two races at the Fair Grounds. Only Kafwain's 115 - earned in a sprint, mind you - is higher among 3-year-olds.

It is reminiscent of a year ago when an unknown speed horse, War Emblem, earned a Beyer 112 in the Illinois Derby, drilling Repent by six lengths. War Emblem, of course, went on to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. As it stands now, I think Ten Most Wanted can win the Derby.

Another 3-year-old I've been high on all year, Atswhatimtalknbout, doesn't look as strong as he did a month ago. He has been asked to come a long way fast. He made his career debut Jan. 4 and now has had five races in just three months. He's bred to be a beast and showed in the San Felipe he possesses top-drawer talent. But could coming so far so fast have sapped him some? His Santa Anita Derby wasn't necessarily the type of effort you want to see if you're thinking roses.

Santa Anita Derby winner Buddy Gil showed again he may be the guttiest horse around, but he ran so hard he bled. Also, there are concerns about his distance capabilities. Still, you can put him anywhere you want, he has overcome trouble, and he is a fighter. Give me that kind of horse in the Derby any time.