03/18/2003 1:00AM

They're all talknbout him now


ARCADIA, Calif. - Buddy Gil got the money, but Atswhatimtalknbout is getting all the attention. The 3-year-olds finished a nose apart in the Grade 2, 1 1/16-mile San Felipe last Sunday, and the strong finish and super gallop out by runner-up Atswhatimtalknbout has made him the clear favorite for the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles on April 5.

"The race doesn't appear to have taken anything out of him," Ron Ellis, Atswhatimtalknbout's trainer, said Tuesday. "And he's learning something every race. He was a little startled by getting hit with so much dirt, then down the backstretch he started running into it."

The seasoning Atswhatimtalknbout gained in the 10-runner field is important for a colt with Kentucky Derby aspirations, because the Santa Anita Derby is expected to come up with fewer starters.

The Santa Anita Derby field is expected to include Atswhatimtalknbout, Buddy Gil, Ocean Terrace, and Ministers Wild Cat; and as many as three Bob Baffert trainees - Kafwain, Domestic Dispute, and During. Baffert said During, originally penciled in for the Wood Memorial on April 12 at Aqueduct, could remain in California instead.

A bargain buy in England

Champion Lodge turned out to be quite a bargain. He was purchased for $68,000 last fall in England at Tattersalls, and scored a runaway win last Saturday in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap at 1 1/2 miles.

The six-length victory win makes Champion Lodge one of the favorites in the Grade 1 San Juan Capistrano on Santa Anita's closing day, April 20. "I'm sure the soft ground helped," trainer Sandy Shulman said, "but if he can get a mile and a half [on yielding turf] he should get a mile and three-quarters coming down the hill."

Champion Lodge, a 6-year-old gelding owned by Ron Charles and Shig Katayama's Clear Valley Stables, was one of six Europeans the owners purchased last fall at Tattersalls. They include the claiming sprinter Moving Experience, whom Shulman expects to continue her improving pattern. Shulman, whose stable typically numbered 45 horses during the mid-1990's, currently has 15 horses in training. He is optimistic about the 2-year-old filly Go Bye Bye. A daughter of Bertrando, Go Bye Bye is out of the consistent mare Bah Bye, and a half-sister to Onebigbag. Go Bye Bye is expected to debut going 4 1/2 furlongs early in the Hollywood Park meet.

Kudos, Pleasantly Perfect work out

While Milwaukee Brew and Congaree - the one-two finishers from the Santa Anita Handicap - are getting a break, trainer Richard Mandella's three-four finishers Kudos and Pleasantly Perfect are on the move. Kudos worked six furlongs in 1:13.80 Tuesday, and runs April 5 in the Oaklawn Handicap, which he won last year under Eddie Delahoussaye. Julie Krone rode Kudos in the Big Cap, but she is recovering from an injury, leaving Mandella without a rider for now. "I'm shopping," he said.

Pleasantly Perfect looked good Tuesday in a five-furlong team work, timed in 1:00.60. His fourth-place finish in the Big Cap was disappointing because, as Mandella said, "he trained better than all the horses for the two weeks" before the race. Pleasantly Perfect runs next April 5 in the Grade 2 San Bernardino Handicap at Santa Anita.

Mandella trainee The Tin Man, who won the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo on Feb. 15 by 9 1/2 lengths before getting sick and being forced to skip the San Luis Rey, will aim for the $400,000 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap on May 10 at Hollywood Park.

* Trainer John Shirreffs said that Calkins Road, winner of two of the richest races last year for California-breds, the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes and $250,000 California Cup Classic, has finally recovered from an infection in his pastern and resumed jogging Tuesday for the first time in two months. The 4-year-old Calkins Road will return to competition during the spring-summer meet at Hollywood Park, and aim for the Cal Cup Classic during the fall Oak Tree meet.

* Buffythecenterfold will have a new rider, Victor Espinoza, when she returns Sunday in the $75,000 Santa Paula Stakes. A two-time graded stakes winner last year at 2, Buffythecenterfold was ridden all six starts last year by Matt Garcia. Unraced since a seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Buffythecenterfold worked five furlongs Tuesday in 1:01.40. Her rivals in the 6 1/2-furlong six stakes include Humorous Lady, Point Clear, and Watching You.