01/10/2006 12:00AM

Too Much Bling to keep on sprinting

Too Much Bling, who earned a 100 Beyer for his San Miguel score, isn't on the Derby trail.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Although a dazzling comeback by Too Much Bling on Sunday stamped the colt as one of the most exciting 3-year-olds at Santa Anita, trainer Bob Baffert and majority owner Stonerside Stable will resist Derby temptation.

It won't be that tough, because hopes remain high for another colt owned by Stonerside.

"Their Derby horse is Bob and John," Baffert said.

Rather than chase roses, Too Much Bling will continue his one-turn campaign Feb. 12 in the Grade 2 San Vicente at seven furlongs. It is a logical progression from a six-furlong stakes, and besides, popular opinion is that Too Much Bling, sired by Rubiano, is not ready for a route.

"I don't think so, either," Baffert said, adding he believes Too Much Bling "will get a longer distance as he gets older, like Ghostzapper."

The comparison is reasonable. The explosive victory by Too Much Bling in the six-furlong San Miguel was indicative of a potential star around one turn. On Sunday, the proven front-runner showed a new dimension.

Too Much Bling was making his first start in California and settled in fifth position while two lengths behind a blistering pace of 21.03 and 43.08 seconds. Too Much Bling cruised forward while wide, and at the quarter pole, jockey Garrett Gomez only hoped the colt would kick as well as he did in a recent workout.

"I knew he was going to finish," Gomez said, "but I didn't know how good he was going to finish. When I moved my hands, he dropped, and - boom! - he was gone. He went from three behind to three in front - like this," Gomez said, snapping of his fingers.

The race was over at the eighth pole. Too Much Bling opened four lengths in the blink of an eye and rolled home in 1:08.59, earning a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. Although Baffert was confident in the colt, he said, "I was blown away - we all were. I thought he could win, but I didn't think he could win like that."

Baffert described Too Much Bling as a light, long-bodied colt who is starting to fill out. Purchased after a 19-length win last summer at Thistledown, Baffert kept Too Much Bling in New York to keep him separate from ill-fated stablemate What a Song. After three losses in New York, Too Much Bling shipped West. The San Miguel was his second win from six starts.

"He's a better horse here, now," Baffert said, while crediting the riding style of Gomez. "He doesn't ride the track, he rides the horse, and that's why he excels," Baffert said. "Everybody else wants to take off at the three-eighths and empty out."

Few to challenge top two in San Rafael

Baffert on Tuesday said that he was leaning toward starting only allowance winner Wanna Runner in the Grade 2 San Rafael Stakes on Saturday. Bob and John could wait for an allowance race or the Grade 3 El Camino Real on Jan. 29 at Bay Meadows.

A small field, led by Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Stevie Wonderboy and Hollywood Futurity winner Brother Derek, is expected for the one-mile San Rafael. It will be the first meeting between Stevie Wonderboy and Brother Derek since the Breeders' Cup. Brother Derek's trainer, Dan Hendricks, acknowledges that his colt finished more than eight lengths behind Stevie Wonderboy in the Breeders' Cup, but he isn't without hope.

"[Stevie Wonderboy] is a better horse going in," Hendricks said. "I hope [Brother Derek] is a better horse coming out."

Stevie Wonderboy is up against it, historically speaking. Since the 1992 BC Juvenile, 12 of the 13 BC Juvenile winners raced again. The 1997 winner, Favorite Trick, is the only one to win his next start.

The 11 BC Juvenile winners who lost their next start include seven odds-on favorites. Prior to 1992, four of the eight BC Juvenile winners won their next start.

As for Stevie Wonderboy, trainer Doug O'Neill said Tuesday that he is "doing fantastic."

Spanish Chestnut gearing up

Spanish Chestnut, the 2005 San Rafael winner, is nearing the first breeze of his comeback, according to trainer Patrick Biancone. Spanish Chestnut has not raced since setting a kamikaze pace and fading to 16th in the Kentucky Derby.

"He had a problem after that; he's perfect now," Biancone said, adding that Spanish Chestnut "will be a good sprinter this year; there's no need to rush him."

Spanish Chestnut has won 3 of 9 starts.

Meanwhile, Wild Fit is on target for her comeback Feb. 11 in the Las Virgenes Stakes, Biancone said. The mile race will be her first start since finishing second in the BC Juvenile Fillies. Clockers credited Wild Fit with a time of 49 seconds for her first comeback work on Sunday, but others caught the filly making up nearly 10 lengths behind a workmate and getting the half in a shade over 47.

Folklore ready for 2006 debut

BC Juvenile Fillies winner Folklore is ready to roll in her first start of the year on Monday in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes at seven furlongs.

"I really feel she's doing better now than she was going into the Breeders' Cup," trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Tuesday.

Tallulah Lula worked a bullet 58 on Tuesday under Gomez, and is also expected to start. Trick's Pic worked in 59.40 and also will run.

* Trainer Gary Mandella and his wife, Lucinda, are celebrating the birth of their first child, Joshua, born Monday at 7 a.m. at Arcadia Methodist Hospital. Joshua Mandella weighed seven pounds and measured 20 inches at birth, and is the first grandchild of Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella.

* Leslie Preston, a popular longtime employee at Santa Anita and Del Mar, died Tuesday morning at her home in Monrovia after a long bout with cancer. She was 50. A funeral is scheduled for Jan. 19 at 10 a.m. at St. Rita's Church in Sierra Madre.