01/05/2006 12:00AM

Stevie Wonderboy gives O'Neill brothers a lift

Stevie Wonderboy works six furlongs in 1:12.60 Thursday at Hollywood.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The past few weeks have been difficult ones for trainer Doug O'Neill and his brother, Dennis, but they had plenty to smile about on Thursday.

Stevie Wonderboy, whom Doug trained to a victory in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, had his most serious work since then on Thursday, when he traveled six furlongs in 1:12.60 on a fast track at Hollywood Park. That was Stevie Wonderboy's final work before his first scheduled start as a 3-year-old, in the Grade 2, $150,000 San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 14.

Stevie Wonderboy went so easily under exercise rider Sal Santiago that clockers designated the work as breezing, which is rarely given in Southern California. Only 3 of the 119 horses who worked at Hollywood on Thursday were considered breezing.

"He worked unbelievable," Doug O'Neill said from his barn at Hollywood Park. "The track here has definitely tightened down since the rain, but anytime you go 1:12 and change at Hollywood Park it's a tremendous work.

"But it was the way he did it. The clockers called it breezing, which tells you how he did it. He looked strong, and he wasn't tired after it. When a horse has been off for couple of months, you're always concerned as a trainer as to where you are in terms of fitness. I give him double hooves up."

O'Neill laughed.

"I think I've been to too many movies," he said.

O'Neill, 38, and his brother, Dennis, 42, were in need of some good news. Dennis, who assists Doug and is his closest friend, recently began chemotherapy treatment at the University of Southern California for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Dennis was at Santa Anita during training hours Thursday. He said it was the best he had felt since undergoing his first round of chemo last week.

"It's stage one, which has the best prognosis," Dennis O'Neill said. "I've got to go for chemo six times, once every three weeks. I'm going to lose my hair, but that's a side effect that's easy to take, because I've only got about four left."

The O'Neills lost a brother, Danny, to melanoma in 1999.

"Doug has been by my side through all of this," Dennis said. "He's on the phone with work 24 hours a day, but he hasn't missed a doctor's appointment or any treatment with me. He's a better brother than he is a trainer.

"And everybody at the track has been great. They talk about the racetrack family, but it's been unbelievable how everybody has rallied around. People like [owner] Wayne Hughes, who helped me get into USC."

"I'm just grateful it was caught early," Doug said. "I don't know what I'd do without him."

Western Hemisphere beats stablemate

Western Hemisphere led a one-two finish for Bob Baffert trainees when the mare scored a 2 1/2-length victory in the $93,330 Kalookan Queen Handicap, the featured second race on Thursday's card.

Western Hemisphere ($7.20) closed in quickly on her front-running stablemate, Resplendency, on the turn, then drew away while stopping the timer in 1:14.81 for 6 1/2 furlongs on a track rated good. Resplendency, the even-money favorite, finished one length in front of third-place Nossa Cancao.

Freakin Streakin, Royally Chosen, and Cyber Slew completed the order of finish.

Victor Espinoza rode Western Hemisphere, 5, who was bred by John and Betty Mabee and is owned by Betty Mabee's Golden Eagle Farm.

"Victor said she really liked the mud," Baffert said.

The victory was the fourth in 12 lifetime starts for Western Hemisphere, a full sister to General Challenge. Baffert said she would likely make her next start in the Sunshine Millions on Jan. 28.

Congrats on comeback trail

Congrats, who won last year's San Pasqual Handicap, then subsequently was second to stablemate Rock Hard Ten in the Santa Anita Handicap and fifth in the Dubai World Cup, is nearing his first start since finishing eighth in the Pacific Classic in August. On Thursday, Congrats worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 at Santa Anita.

"I just gave him a couple of months off," said his trainer, Richard Mandella. "He'd had a long campaign. I gave him the time off with designs on running this year. That was his first five-eighths, so he's about a month away from running."

Mandella said Congrats might come back in the Grade 2, $150,000 San Carlos Handicap at seven furlongs on Feb. 18 before stretching out around two turns.

Mandella also on Thursday gave Peace Chant a quick three-furlong blowout in 35.40 seconds. Peace Chant, 3, who won his lone start at Hollywood Park last month, is scheduled to meet stablemate One Union in the $75,000 San Miguel Stakes going six furlongs on Sunday.

Valdivia's agent calls it a career

Jockey agent Brian Beach is leaving racing to work with his brother, Dan, on a new business. He had been representing Jose Valdivia Jr., who will now be represented by Michelle Barsotti.

"The business is a start-up for streaming video for sports highlights," Beach said.

Beach also has been representing Rene Douglas, but Douglas has been absent this meet while attending to ill family members in his native Panama.

* Star Parade, who is expected to run in the Grade 2, $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap on the turf on Sunday, worked a half-mile on the training track in 49 seconds for trainer Darrell Vienna.

* The comebacking Senor Swinger worked a half-mile in 47.40 seconds on a good turf course on Thursday morning for Baffert.

* At Hollywood Park, Borrego, the winner of the Pacific Classic and Jockey Club Gold Cup, worked five furlongs in 1:00.20.