02/09/2004 12:00AM

Top milers back from layoffs


ARCADIA, Calif. - Fresh from layoffs, embark on their 2004 campaigns in Wednesday's $70,000 Thunder Road Handicap at Santa Anita.

A strong performance could lead them to the $350,000 Frank Kilroe Mile on March 6, the top turf race for milers at this meeting.

Both were in outstanding form last fall. Devious Boy won the Oak Tree Derby on turf on Oct. 4, a day before Designed for Luck won the Grade 2 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile. But both were also beaten in their last starts.

Devious Boy finished seventh in the Sir Beaufort Stakes on Dec. 26, a performance that trainer Kathy Walsh dismisses because the race was transferred from turf to dirt.

Designed for Luck has not started since finishing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Mile on Oct. 25, after leading to midstretch.

"He was worn out after the Breeders' Cup," trainer Vladimir Cerin said.

Designed for Luck has drawn a tough post for the Thunder Road, run over a mile on turf. He will start from the outside, post 11, in a race that will be limited to that many starters because the temporary rails will be 15 feet from the permanent position. Two horses are on the also-eligible list.

The 11 entrants in the main field make up a strong cast on an otherwise dreary card plagued by short fields.

Other top candidates in the Thunder Road include 2003 stakes winners Jockey's Dream and Singletary. Asong for Billy, Geronimo, Inesperado, and Truly a Judge are stakes-placed in the last year.

Singletary won the Grade 3 La Jolla Handicap last August and was fifth in the Del Mar Derby in his last start. Jockey's Dream was a Group 1 stakes winner in Brazil last year and is making his first start since finishing second in a Group 1 last June. He is now trained by Bobby Frankel.

Devious Boy is a stalker who has been first or second in four starts on turf since arriving from England a year ago.

"He's a happy camper," Walsh said. "He had four hard races last year, and I think he needed a freshening. I think he's a better miler. I know he's got a lot of heart."

Designed for Luck has been working toward the Kilroe in recent weeks. The race remains firmly in Cerin's plans.

"He's had two seven-eighths works, and I think he's fit enough," Cerin said. "As long as he runs well and comes back okay, I'll be happy."