04/06/2005 12:00AM

Stevens suggests a longshot

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Horsephotos
Left to right: Jockey Corey Nakatani, trainer Ron Ellis, owner Marty Wygod, and trainers Julio Canani and Craig Dollase at Wednesday's draw.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens is predicting an upset by the longshot Wannawinemall in Saturday's $750,000 .

Stevens has won the Santa Anita Derby a record nine times, but will miss this year's race to ride Summerly in Saturday's Grade 1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.

He picks Wannawinemall to finish in front of Giacomo, with Sweet Catomine, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2004, to run third in the field of 11.

While Sweet Catomine is the 7-5 favorite on the morning-line, Stevens suggests that bettors should demand value.

"I think it's wide open," he said. "I haven't been that impressed with her."

Sweet Catomine has won both of her starts this year - the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths and Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks by three lengths.

"I would have thought she would have run off and hid from some of those horses," he said.

Stevens rode Wannawinemall to a third in his career debut on Jan. 8, but has not ridden the colt in three subsequent starts. Mike Smith was aboard for those races, including a second in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows on March 12.

Smith is the regular rider of Giacomo and has opted for that mount in the Santa Anita Derby. Alex Solis will ride Wannawinemall for the first time on Saturday.

"I hope Gary's prediction is right," Solis said.

Wannawinemall's potential has Stevens's attention. Trained by Kristin Mulhall, Wannawinemall has battled bleeding problems in recent starts. Mulhall has said she is hoping that has been corrected.

Stevens said the bleeding may explain why Wannawinemall was beaten in his first start. He took the lead in early stretch and lost by three-quarters of a length.

"I thought he was just hanging," Stevens said. "I know he's got room for improvement. I've liked his races since then."

Stevens won his first Santa Anita Derby with Winning Colors in 1988. She is the last filly to win the race and went on to win the Kentucky Derby. Stevens said it is difficult to compare Winning Colors and Sweet Catomine because they have different styles.

"Winning Colors had amazing speed and would relax on the lead," Stevens said. "Sweet Catomine comes from off the pace. One good thing for Sweet Catomine, she will have pace to run at."

Buckland Manor needs better luck

A rough trip through early stretch of the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile last month left Buckland Manor a length behind Leroidesanimaux at the finish.

For owners Trudy McCaffery and John Toffan and trainer Paco Gonzalez, it was a terribly frustrating stretch run. Jockey Rene Douglas had Buckland Manor well placed but could not get through in time.

"That was his best race," Gonzalez said. "There's not many chances for a Grade 1."

Gonzalez sees Saturday's $150,000 Arcadia Handicap as a chance for redemption, even if Leroidesanimaux is not part of the six-horse field.

The Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap, run over a mile on turf, is a vital start for Buckland Manor, who has won 6 of 17 starts and $389,320. With the Hollywood Park meeting coming up, the Arcadia is Buckland Manor's last chance until fall to win a graded stakes on his favorite course.

"He doesn't run too well at Hollywood," Gonzalez said.

The Arcadia field includes Sweet Stepper, Runaway Dancer, Sweet Return, Fail Me Not, and Singletary. Sweet Return and Singletary were third and seventh in the Kilroe Mile. Singletary was making his first start since pulling an upset in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Lone Star Park last October.

Buckland Manor figures to stalk Sweet Stepper. Gonzalez is just hoping for better luck than in the Kilroe Mile, and has once again turned to Douglas to partner Buckland Manor.

"He did the right thing," Gonzalez said of Douglas's ride in the Kilroe. "He saved ground and he was unlucky on the second turn. That's the way it goes."

Saturday's program also includes the $100,000 Providencia Stakes for 3-year-old fillies over a mile on turf.

Shining Energy, a dazzling winner of the La Habra Stakes on the hillside turf course on March 6, and Thatswhatimean, who won the China Doll Stakes over a mile on turf, are top contenders in the field of 11.

Grass races galore

Few turf races were run early in the meeting because of poor weather. The emphasis is on grass racing for the final two weeks of the meeting.

Wednesday's program included three turf races, there were four races carded for the hillside course on Thursday, and three turf races on Friday. Saturday's 11-race program has five turf races.

Racing secretary Rick Hammerle said the concentration of turf racing will continue through April 18, the final day of the meeting. Earlier at the meeting, there were entire weeks without turf racing due to near-record amounts of rainfall.

For the final four days of the meeting, from April 15-18, four to five turf races are scheduled per day.

"We're going with the mindset that we're backed up," Hammerle said. "We're trying to make up for lost time."

Golden Shine requires rest

The Triple Crown trail has ended for Golden Shine, who finished fifth in the San Felipe Stakes March 19.

Trainer David Hofmans said a bruised foot suffered in the last week will prevent Golden Shine from starting in a Derby prep race.

"He's off the Derby trail and he'll need some rest," Hofmans said.

Steiner still sore

Jockey Joe Steiner remains sidelined because of body soreness suffered in a one-horse spill last Sunday.

Steiner underwent precautionary X-rays on Sunday before being released from a local hospital. Because of limited mobility in his shoulder, Steiner is likely to undergo an MRI in coming days, according to his wife, Jane.

"With a fall like that, you hurt like hell," she said. "He's lucky he didn't break anything."

The injury has interrupted a solid meeting for Steiner. Through Wednesday, Steiner had won 6 races from 30 starters.