03/12/2002 12:00AM

Sunday Break on the fence for San Felipe


ARCADIA, Calif. - The rapidly improving 3-year-old Sunday Break chose the wrong week for a growth spurt. He worked six furlongs in 1:15.80 Tuesday at Hollywood Park, but trainer Neil Drysdale said later that he is not a definite starter in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on Sunday at Santa Anita.

"No decision has been made yet," Drysdale said. "He is going through a growth spurt, and I feel he needs more time between races. The problem is finding something in the next week to 10 days." Drysdale said a San Felipe decision would depend on how Sunday Break comes out of the workout, and subsequent consultation with the colt's owner, Koji Maeda. Sunday Break, whose two-turn allowance earned a 98 Beyer Speed Figure, has been ridden in all four starts by Gary Stevens.

A field of five, headed by Siphonic, is expected for the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe. Sunday Break, who scored an impressive two-length allowance win Feb. 22 in his first try around two turns, would be the second wagering choice against Sham Stakes winner U S S Tinosa, Sham runner-up Puerto Banus, and Shah Jehan.

A visually impressive five-furlong workout Tuesday at Santa Anita by Puerto Banus suggests this half-brother to Spain should not be taken lightly in the San Felipe. Trained by Bob Baffert, Puerto Banus worked five furlongs in company in 59.40 seconds, and galloped out strongly past the wire. Puerto Banus is owned by Ahmed Salman's The Thoroughbred Corp., whose racing manager Richard Mulhall trained the colt's sire, Supremo. He won the one-mile Norfolk, but was considered mainly a sprinter.

"[Puerto Banus] bears no resemblance at all to Supremo, or to Spain," Mulhall said. "This horse is a big horse, and he will run a mile and a half." The question is, how fast? Puerto Banus finished 4 1/2 lengths behind U S S Tinosa in the Sham, earning a 91 Beyer in his third career start. Although Puerto Banus came out of the Sham with a minor foot problem that forced him to miss two days of training, his workout Tuesday suggests he is turning the corner.

Baffert said a jockey decision will be made later this week. Stevens rode Puerto Banus in the Sham, but is expected to ride Sunday Break if that one starts.

San Felipe favorite Siphonic galloped Tuesday morning at 5:30 under exercise rider Michelle Jensen, and was scheduled for a gate work Wednesday. The probable San Felipe lineup: Siphonic, Jerry Bailey; Sunday Break, Stevens; U S S Tinosa, Kent Desormeaux; Puerto Banus, no rider; and Shah Jehan, Mike Smith.

Quick work for Officer

Officer turned in the fastest six-furlong work of the morning Tuesday at Santa Anita, racing 1:10.80 in a move clockers designated breezing. The workout, under Dana Barnes, was the first six-furlong move since Officer returned to serious training after a short break at The Thoroughbred Corp.'s ranch in Bradbury.

Winner of the Grade 1 Champagne and one of the most exciting 2-year-olds of 2001 before tailing off, Officer is expected to make his comeback the day after the Santa Anita Derby. The $100,000 Zany Tactics, a 6 1/2-furlong race for California-breds, will be Officer's first start since a third-place finish Dec. 15 in the Hollywood Futurity.

Bella Bellucci points toward Oaks

Bella Bellucci, third-place finisher in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and considered one of the country's top 3-year-old fillies, is less than two weeks away from her first start of the season. Bella Bellucci worked six furlongs Tuesday at Hollywood Park for trainer Neil Drysdale, and may soon embark on an enterprising three-race series that would include the Kentucky Oaks on May 3. Bella Bellucci worked Tuesday in 1:14.20, breezing.

"She went every well, and I think we're going in the Santa Paula," Drysdale said. The six-furlong, $75,000 Santa Paula will be run March 24, which would give Drysdale the opportunity to stretch her out to two turns in April, followed by the Oaks.

Mott takes over Giant Gentleman

Two weeks after switching owners, Giant Gentleman now has a new trainer. The 4-year-old Giant Gentleman, runner-up in the Grade 1 Malibu and Grade 2 Strub, will be sent this week to Bill Mott at Payson Park. Brent Sumja was Giant Gentleman's previous trainer, though the colt was stabled all winter in Jenine Sahadi's barn at Santa Anita. The trainer switch had been anticipated ever since Gary Tanaka purchased Giant Gentleman the week before his fourth-place finish in the Santa Anita Handicap.

Mott, whose previous Tanaka-owned runners include Grade 1 winner Snow Polina and the good allowance filly Rose of Zollern, admits training Giant Gentleman will be like starting from scratch. "I don't know much about him, we'll learn more as time goes on," Mott said Tuesday from Florida. Giant Gentleman has won 4 of 10 and earned $318,900. Before the Big Cap, Tanaka purchased Giant Gentleman from owners Nancy Clark, Mark Moskowitz, and Robert Domush. The price was not disclosed.

* Spain, runner-up to Azeri on Sunday in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita, is expected to make her next start at Oaklawn Park on April 6 in the Apple Blossom Handicap as she closes in the all-time North American female earnings record. Spain has earned $3,067,040, only $216,348 behind the record held by Serena's Song ($3,283,388).

* Ask Me No Secrets, third-place finisher in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes on Feb. 9, is shipping to Oaklawn Park on Saturday for the Grade 3 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup Stakes. Mike Smith will ride the David Hofmans-trained filly, who is using Saturday's race as a prep for the Apple Blossom.

* San Rafael runner-up Easy Grades worked a half-mile Monday and remains on target for the Santa Anita Derby on April 6. Although it has been more than a week since Daily Racing Form reported Easy Grades would need a rider for the Santa Anita Derby, trainer Ted West said Tuesday no jockey or agent has inquired about riding the gelding in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby. Eddie Delahoussaye, his regular rider, is committed to Affluent in the Apple Blossom the same day as the Santa Anita Derby.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman

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