03/05/2008 1:00AM

Thinking big with Ten Meropa

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Ten Meropa, the winner of the Grade 3 Baldwin Stakes last Sunday in his U.S. debut, may start in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 5 and is an outside candidate for the Kentucky Derby, co-owner Joe Masino said on Wednesday.

Masino, who races under the name Class Racing Stable, owns Ten Meropa with Tom Arndt's A&R Stable.

"If he makes it to the Derby that would be great," said Masino, who was at Santa Anita on Wednesday morning, checking on his horses.

Regarding the Santa Anita Derby, he said: "The horse will tell us if he can get there. We're not going to push him."

Ten Meropa has won 2 of 6 starts and $77,220. In England last year he won a maiden race on an all-weather track and was beaten in two appearances on turf. The Grade 3 Baldwin Stakes, run down the hillside turf course, was his first win on turf.

"It was a pretty impressive run," Masino said.

Ten Meropa was supposed to have started earlier this year, but Masino said the colt did not handle the journey from England well.

"He didn't cooperate on the flight over," he said. "He lost some weight and we gave him some time. He started to train better in his last two or three works. We gave him a shot, and it was pretty amazing."

Ten Meropa was saddled by Ral Ayers, an assistant to trainer Jeff Mullins. Mullins is serving a 20-day suspension for a medication violation. Mullins won the 2003 Santa Anita Derby with Buddy Gil, who also won the Baldwin Stakes that year.

Masino is hopeful that Ten Meropa can transfer his recent win to Santa Anita's synthetic surface.

"I believe he's better on the [synthetic track] than the grass," Masino said.

The Santa Anita Derby is run over 1 1/8 miles and is the West Coast's leading prep to the Kentucky Derby.

Monterey Jazz to cut back to a mile

Monterey Jazz, also owned by Class Racing Stable and A&R Stables, will be pointed for a Grade 1 one-mile race in May, the Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park on dirt or the Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile on turf at Hollywood Park, Masino said.

The winner of the Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles last month, Monterey Jazz was the 7-2 favorite in the 1 1/4-mile Big Cap last Saturday. Ridden by Russell Baze for trainer Craig Dollase, Monterey Jazz led by as many as 12 lengths on the backstretch through a quick pace but faded to finish 12th.

Masino described the loss as "a kick in the stomach."

"When he went by the stands the first time, I thought he had a good shot," he said. "On the backstretch, he got into the bit and didn't let up. He's a big, powerful animal and he took the bit. It wasn't Russell's fault.

"I don't think a mile and a quarter is out of the question, but I think we'll go back to what's best, and that's a mile."

Track maintenance goes well

Santa Anita closed its synthetic main track for training early on Tuesday to conduct a nine-hour maintenance procedure to add polymers, according to track superintendent Richard Tedesco.

The polymers are from the Australian synthetic surface, Pro-Ride. Last month, polymers and fibers from the Pro-Ride surface were added to the existing Cushion Track material in an effort to aid drainage. The track lost 11 days of racing because of wet weather in January and early February, but has had no cancellations since the Pro-Ride materials were added.

Tuesday's work was completed by dusk, Tedesco said. There was no disruption to training on Wednesday.

"We had areas that needed attention," Tedesco said. "I think we're done with what we have to do. It will last us through the meeting."

The meeting concludes on April 20. Later this year, Santa Anita will replace its existing surface with another synthetic track, possibly Pro-Ride, or a dirt track.

Golden Doc A heads nine in Santa Anita Oaks

Led by Las Virgenes Stakes winner Golden Doc A, the Grade 1, $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks on Saturday has drawn a field of nine.

The race also drew Final Fling, the winner of the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes in January, and Lovely Isle and Divine Legacy, the second- and fourth-place finishers in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes on Feb. 9.

Colonel John goes back to the track

Colonel John, the winner of the Sham Stakes on Saturday and the probable favorite for the Santa Anita Derby, resumed training on Wednesday, trainer Eoin Harty said.

"He looked like a million bucks," Harty said.

Harty also said that Zada Belle, the winner of an allowance race for female sprinters last Friday in her second start, is expected to join the Maktoum family's Godolphin Stable in New York for her next race.

Zada Belle ran under Sheikh Mohammed al -Maktoum's Darley Stable when she won last week.

Smith gives up mount on Daytona

Daytona will have a different rider Saturday in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap at Fair Grounds, and the horse's trainer, Dan Hendricks, is none too happy with the way it happened.

Hendricks learned Sunday that Mike Smith, who has ridden Daytona to four successive graded stakes wins, would not travel to Fair Grounds for the $500,000 race, in which Daytona is the 121-pound highweight. Muniz entries were drawn Monday, giving Hendricks less than 24 hours to find a jockey. Alex Solis will ride Daytona.

"I am surprised it was done in such an unprofessional manner, on the day before entries were drawn, to call me on a horse like that," Hendricks said.

Smith will stay at Santa Anita on Saturday to ride in two stakes for owners Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer John Shirreffs - longshot Kazamira in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks and Neko Bay in the $75,000 Santana Mile. Smith's agent, Brad Pegram, declined to elaborate on the decision.

"I'm really not at liberty to say anything, other than it was a bad situation," Pegram said.

Hendricks said Smith knew for a month that Daytona was running in the Muniz, and that he should have been told earlier that he needed another jockey.

Daytona began a four-race win streak in graded stakes when Smith rode him for the first time in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby last fall, and Smith travelled to Fair Grounds to ride Daytona in the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap on Feb. 9. Solis will be riding Daytona for the first time since a third-place finish in the El Cajon Aug. 31 at Del Mar.

- additional reporting by Brad Free