02/01/2002 12:00AM

Three who can beat Lido Palace

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PHOENIX - You don't need me to tell you that Lido Palace is going to be very tough to beat in Sunday's San Antonio at Santa Anita.

But there are still doubts if you're thinking about reaching for your wallet. Lido Palace will likely be 4-5 or so, but he hasn't run since Nov. 24.

Sure, trainer Bobby Frankel is among the best at getting horses ready off the bench. But you can rest assured the San Antonio isn't Frankel's ultimate goal for Lido Palace. Undoubtedly he is using this as a launching pad toward the Santa Anita Handicap and/or the Dubai World Cup and beyond. Don't you think Frankel would be delighted just to see his big horse go out and run well, finish up strong, and come back fine?

When last seen, Lido Palace was eighth, beaten 13-plus lengths in the Japan Cup Dirt. We've seen many a runner return from the Far East and never be quite the same.

So, before you put a ring around Lido Palace, know that there are playable options. Here's a quick rundown of three horses who just might be able to spring a surprise.

Seinne

A Chilean import, he made an immediate good impression in his U.S. debut at Del Mar in September. He won a strong optional claimer at a mile on dirt, and showed his versatility in his next two starts by running third in the Henry P. Russell and winning an allowance race, both on turf. Trainer Ron McAnally wheeled him back in the Jan. 5 San Pasqual here. Seinne ran well to be fourth, beaten less than a length by Wooden Phone, but likely could have done even better. "He bled a little bit last time and I think he'll be better this time," McAnally said. "I think the added distance will help him. He's a mile and a quarter horse." Seinne's last six starts in Chile were at distances from 1 1/4 miles to 1 1/2 miles. He had two wins, a second, and three fourth-place finishes.

Although he has two wins in four starts in the U.S., Seinne will be seeking his first stakes victory in this country. Seinne has tactical speed, and Chris McCarron knows him well. He is quite playable, probably in the 8-1 range.

Redattore

He is known primarily as a turf miler, and with good reason. He won the San Francisco Mile last April, then won the Grade 1 Eddie Read at Del Mar in July. He followed that up with a fine third on the boggy Arlington turf in the Arlington Million on a course he surely didn't care for going a distance (10 furlongs) beyond his best.

He didn't show his usual spark in the Oak Tree BC Mile, so trainer Dick Mandella has given him time since. He's been working steadily, you know the quality is there, and the distance is up his alley.

But what about the dirt? Well, he handled it just fine in his native Brazil, and in his one U.S. dirt race was fourth in the Triple Bend going seven furlongs, a distance likely short of his best. Mandella also knows a thing or two about moving South Americans to the dirt, as he did with Gentlemen and Siphon. Mandella could have picked another spot for Redattore's return. He didn't. And so long as dirt isn't an issue - and I don't expect it to be - Redattore is quite attractive at around 6-1 or so.

Straight Flush

It's another Mandella South American import. Straight Flush was the Brazilian Horse of the Year in 2000 but was inactive for a year and a half. He finally surfaced, first time in the U.S., in an allowance race on the turf at Santa Anita Dec. 30. He bulled his way between horses and looked to be on his way to victory. But a Frankel European import with Grade 1 capabilities, Lord Flasheart, blasted by for the win.

But the race proved a number of things: Straight Flush was fine after the long layoff, he still could perform at a high level, and he was OK with racing in America.

Now he moves to dirt, the surface he made his reputation on in South America. He's also going to be much more comfortable with 1 1/8 miles as opposed to the mile of his return race. He's worked steadily and Mandella has given him a full month to recover from a tough return run. It's been demonstrated before that a big shot in South America can be a big shot here. It's easy to make a case for him as a viable alternative at 5-1 or so.

Of the three candidates, Seinne may have the most going for him right now. That doesn't mean either Mandella runner might not end up being better than him on dirt. It just seems that circumstances may play more to Seinne's favor in this spot than they do for the two Mandella horses.

OK, I admit it. I may be reaching some to make a case against Lido Palace. But it's the kind of thinking you need to uncover big-payoff winners.

Lido Palace may well win; he's the best horse. Does he have to win, does he need to win, do you need to bet on him to win? Heck no.