04/01/2002 12:00AM

They're not eager to face Officer

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The expected matchup between and Menacing Dennis in Sunday's $100,000 Zany Tactics Stakes at Santa Anita may not occur.

On Sunday, trainer Jeff Bonde said that the undefeated Menacing Dennis has been nominated to "three or four" races, including the California Derby at Bay Meadows on April 13, and is not definite for the Zany Tactics.

"We're trying to see who's going to run in this race," he said, referring to the California Derby. "I'm not sure what we'll do."

Menacing Dennis won his 3-year-old debut in a six-furlong allowance race at Santa Anita on March 6. Last year, he won a maiden race at Monmouth Park by 10 3/4 lengths.

Menacing Dennis is one of the few potential starters in the Zany Tactics Stakes that could trouble Officer. Run over 6 1/2 furlongs for California-breds, the Zany Tactics is not expected to draw a large field because of the presence of Officer.

A winner of 5 of 8 starts and $740,010 last year, Officer won the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity and Grade 1 Champagne Stakes and was the favorite in the Breeders'

Cup Juvenile. He finished fifth, 5 1/4 lengths behind Johannesburg, and later finished second in the California Cup Juvenile and third in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity.

Officer has not started this year, but posted two bullet workouts at Santa Anita in March. On Sunday, trainer Bob Baffert was very confident that Officer would rebound from his late-season tailspin.

"He could probably start from behind the gate and still win [the Zany Tactics]," Baffert said. "But they won't just send us the check, so he'll have to earn it."

San Bernardino loses Kudos

The Zany Tactics is one of five stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday and Sunday. Among them is Saturday's $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, the West Coast's leading prep to the Kentucky Derby.

Saturday's $150,000 San Bernardino Handicap for older horses over 1 1/8 miles lost a leading contender over the weekend when trainer Richard Mandella said Kudos will run in Saturday's $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap in Arkansas.

Kudos was third in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 2, finishing 4 1/4 lengths behind Milwaukee Brew.

Kudos will be ridden by Eddie Delahoussaye, who also rides Affluent in the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap for fillies and mares, also Saturday at Oaklawn.

Without Kudos, the San Bernardino Handicap is expected to draw two runners from the Big Cap - Last Parade, who finished eighth at 52-1, and Freedom Crest, who finished 10th at 9-1.

Freedom Crest won the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap on this track last October in an upset over Tiznow.

Bosque Redondo, the front-running winner of the Tokyo City Handicap on March 9, and Agol Lack, who is winless in four starts in this country, are also expected to start in the San Bernardino.

Saturday's program also includes the $150,000 Arcadia Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf. Irish Prize, who won the San Gabriel Handicap and San Marcos Stakes earlier at this meeting but was seventh in the Kilroe Mile Handicap on March 2, is among the top contenders.

Others expected to run in the Arcadia include Homeland, Kerrygold, Sligo Bay, and Sumati. Kerrygold worked five furlongs in 1:02.60 on Monday morning at Santa Anita.

Aside from the Zany Tactics Stakes, Sunday's card includes the $100,000 Las Cienegas Handicap for fillies and mares on the hillside turf course. Penny Marie and Twin Set, the first two finishers in the Winter Solstice Stakes on March 7, head a field expected to include Carbon Copy, Gabriellina Giof, and the Argentine import Refine.

Puglisi returns early

Jockey Iggy Puglisi, who injured his back and knee in a spill at Los Alamitos in late December, makes his return in Wednesday's third race.

Puglisi received doctor's clearance to resume riding last Thursday and has been on horses each morning since Friday.

"I'm getting on as many as I can," he said on Sunday. "I feel good. I've been swimming every other day. I thought I'd be sore on Saturday, but I was able to get on more horses."

Puglisi was hoping to return in time for the Hollywood Park meeting, which opens on April 24, but will now ride the final three weeks of the Santa Anita meeting.

"I feel good enough to do it," he said.

Two out of Santa Anita Derby

Holdthehelm and Hot Contest are passing the Santa Anita Derby. Holdthehelm, who has battled a foot abscess in recent weeks, will start in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 13, according to trainer Paul Assinesi. Hot Contest may start in the California Derby at Bay Meadows the same day, trainer Ray Bell said.

Another local horse heading to the California Derby is Captain Squire, who worked five furlongs in 59.40 seconds Monday morning at Santa Anita.

"If he fails at that, I'll start sprinting him," said Jeff Mullins, who trains Captain Squire.

Nakatani misses two days

Jockey Corey Nakatani took off his mounts on Saturday and Sunday because of back problems, according to his agent, Bob Meldahl.

Nakatani injured his back during a workout last week, Meldahl said. Nakatani gave up four rides on Saturday and three on Sunday.

"He was working a horse that pulled on him," Meldahl said. "It made the lower back tender. The chiropractor said to take a few days off. We'll be back up on Wednesday."

Nakatani is booked to ride five on Wednesday.

Trujillo suspended for whip abuse

Apprentice jockey Elvis Trujillo has been given a three-day suspension for a whip violation in Saturday's second race. Trujillo was cited for his ride on Hushed Victory, who led early, faded from contention on the second turn despite being repeatedly struck by the whip, and then fell entering the stretch.

According to trainer Donald Warren, the 6-year-old Hushed Victory was euthanized on Saturday after suffering an ankle injury.

In their ruling, stewards Ingrid Fermin, Pete Pedersen, and Tom Ward ruled that Trujillo violated a use of whip rule for "continuing to use whip when horse is showing no response."

Trujillo, who returned to riding over the weekend after a six-week break caused by an arm injury, is suspended from Friday through Sunday.

Alternates for pick four

Beginning Wednesday, bettors playing the popular pick four bet will be able to designate an alternate in the event of a late scratch. Previously, bettors whose selections were scratched inherited the favorite.

The change was approved by the California Horse Racing Board in January, but enactment was delayed to coincide with the start of a race meeting, according to CHRB officials. On Wednesday, Bay Meadows opens its spring-summer meeting.

The pick four covers the last four races of the day. Alternate selections are also available on pick six and place pick-all bets.

* Medaglia d'Oro, the San Felipe Stakes winner, worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 at Hollywood Park on Sunday. He runs next in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 13.

* The top sprinter Snow Ridge worked six furlongs in 1:12.80 on Monday morning at Santa Anita in preparation for the April 13 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct. Snow Ridge's time was the best of 11 at the distance.

- Trainer Ron McAnally said he is sending the 3-year-old filly Fun House to Oaklawn Park for the Fantasy Stakes on April 12.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman