03/10/2004 12:00AM

Stewards scrutinize Nakatani


ARCADIA, Calif. - Jockey Corey Nakatani appeared before the Santa Anita stewards Wednesday in a 90-minute hearing regarding his involvement in a spill in the sixth race last Saturday.

The incident occurred at the half-mile pole of a one-mile turf race. Nakatani argued that he did not deliberately let his mount, Mister Cosmi, drift out and bump Terrifying, who was ridden by Javiar Santiago. Terrifying stumbled after being bumped, unseating Santiago, who was not injured in the spill.

Before the bumping incident, Mister Cosmi was forced into the rail when the field settled onto the backstretch. Nakatani appeared to talk to Santiago before Mister Cosmi drifted out.

During the hearing before stewards Ingrid Fermin, Pete Pedersen, and Tom Ward, testimony was heard from Nakatani, Santiago, and jockeys Tyler Baze, Alex Bisono, and Mike Smith, all of whom rode in the race. Darrell Haire, an official with the Jockeys' Guild, and jockey Luis Jauregui, the Jockeys' Guild representative for Santa Anita, attended the meeting. Both declined to testify at the hearing.

The stewards did not issue a ruling, but Nakatani is likely to face sanctions.

Don Calabria, a prominent racing lawyer, represented Nakatani. They both argued that Nakatani was forced into tight quarters on the backstretch and was trying to move out to gain room when Mister Cosmi bumped Terrifying.

"I yelled that I needed some room," Nakatani said, describing the race while watching a replay.

"I started to angle out. I looked back and made sure I had room to angle out. I started to drift out, my horse switched leads and bore out. The horse is at fault for doing what he did."

Ward challenged Nakatani on part of his excuse while watching a replay.

"In viewing the head-on, I couldn't agree the horse bobbled," he said. "I will agree that the horse switched leads."

Nakatani responded, saying, "Did you ride the horse, judge? The tape doesn't appear [to show] everything that happened."

Nakatani testified that he was in tight quarters behind the front-runner, Beyond Infinity, but a pan shot showed at least two lengths between Beyond Infinity and Mister Cosmi. Throughout the early run on the backstretch, Terrifying was racing alongside Mister Cosmi

"I think there was too many horses in the same spot at the same time," Nakatani said. "I let them know I was in trouble."

Responding to a question asked by Calabria, Nakatani said he did not intentionally bump Santiago in retaliation to the contact that occurred early on the backstretch. "I was doing everything I could to win the race," Nakatani said.

Baze, Bisono, Santiago, and Smith gave brief testimony.

Santiago testified from memory, declining to watch a video of the race. Through an interpreter, he said, "I don't want to remember what happened."

Santiago said that Nakatani shouted, 'What are you doing?' after the horses made initial contact. He said when he saw Nakatani's face "I knew he was upset."

Smith rode Beyond Infinity, who challenged for the early lead. He said he was forced to angle to the inside on the first turn to avoid being carried wide by early leader April Steel. When Beyond Infinity moved to the inside, he pulled himself up, Smith said. "That probably caused the backup," he said.

Baze rode Commercant Vic, who was at the back of the field early. He said he was fortunate not to strike Santiago when Santiago fell. Baze said he did not specifically hear an exchange between Nakatani and Santiago. "There was a lot being said in Spanish and English," he said.

In his closing argument, Calabria argued that Santiago's testimony regarding Nakatani's reaction to the initial bumping should be disregarded. "It is pure speculation by a man who doesn't speak English and doesn't know the words that were said," he said.

"Corey was not angry. He did what he could. It's not an egregious situation."

After Calabria concluded his statement, Pedersen said, "Our concern is, 'Is this an incident that could have been avoided?' That's what we'll have to decide."

'Parade' preps for Santa Margarita

Star Parade, the winner of the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap on Feb. 16, worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 on Wednesday preparing for a start in Sunday's $300,000 Santa Margarita Handicap.

Run over 1 1/8 miles, the Grade 1 Santa Margarita is the championship race of the meeting for older fillies and mares.

The other probables include the entry of Adoration and Fencelineneighbor, Bare Necessities, and La Tour. Adoration won the Breeders' Cup Distaff last fall in an upset. Bare Necessities was a fast-closing second to Star Parade in the Santa Maria, which was run over 1 1/16 miles.

The field will not include two top members of the division - Island Fashion, who finished second in the Santa Anita Handicap last Saturday, and Wild Spirit, the winner of the 2003 Ruffian Handicap at Belmont Park, who has yet to start this season. They are both candidates for the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 3.

Wild Spirit worked six furlongs in 1:13.20 on Wednesday at Hollywood Park.

A third would thrill Biancone

Salty Romance will be a longshot in Saturday's $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks and trainer Patrick Biancone will be the first to admit it will be difficult to upset Halfbridled, the 2003 champion 2-year-old filly, and A.P. Adventure, both of whom are undefeated.

A Grade 1, the Santa Anita Oaks is run over 1 1/16 miles.

"I would be happy to finish third," Biancone said.

Salty Romance finished second to A.P. Adventure in the Santa Ysabel Stakes on Jan. 4 and did not start in the Las Virgenes on Feb. 15, also won by A.P. Adventure.

"We gave her a little break and this is a proper race to come back in, time-wise," Biancone said.

The Santa Anita Oaks is expected to draw an outstanding field of seven, including Hollywood Story, Silent Sighs, Stellar Jayne, and Vencedora Amiga.