05/11/2003 11:00PM

Total Impact adds to arsenal


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - In her brief career as a trainer, Laura de Seroux has guided the careers of Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year, and several major stakes winners on turf. Until now, her stable has not included a top older male, a vacancy that may have been filled over the weekend.

On Saturday, Total Impact won his first stakes in the United States in the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at Hollywood Park. While Total Impact did not beat world-class opposition in the Grade 2 LeRoy, de Seroux insists that the 5-year-old Chilean-bred horse could be starting against Grade 1 competition by the end of this meeting in July.

De Seroux, who began training in August 1999, considers Total Impact to be a candidate for the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 13, the championship of the meeting for older horses.

"It's taken me awhile to get this horse back to his best," she said.

Sidelined last year by a fractured tibia, Total Impact has had an active campaign already this year, winning 2 of 5 starts. One of his losses was a close second to Western Pride in the Grade 3 San Bernardino Handicap at Santa Anita on April 5, his third start in a month. Even though Total Impact lost, de Seroux thought he was rounding into form.

"He carries so much condition," de Seroux said. "I ran him three times so close together to get him to the peak level of fitness."

De Seroux pointed Total Impact for Saturday's Mervyn LeRoy and watched him get a perfect trip. Ridden by Mike Smith, Total Impact was third early behind pacesetters Wooden Phone and Palmeiro. He rallied on the final turn to challenge Palmeiro, took the lead in early stretch from Sunday Break, and won by two lengths over Fleetstreet Dancer.

"Mike has to stay busy on him all the time," de Seroux said. "He idles very low."

Total Impact will be pointed for the $400,000 Californian Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on June 14, an important prep for the Gold Cup. "It's time we test him against better horses," she said.

Manchurian wins first out

Manchurian, a 3-year-old colt by Deputy Minister out of Ajina, the 1997 champion 3-year-old filly, won his career debut in Saturday's third race over seven furlongs.

Ridden by Patrick Valenzuela and trained by de Seroux, Manchurian broke behind the field, rallied along the inside in early stretch, and held off a threat from Grinding It Out to win by a half-length. Manchurian ($8.60) finished seven furlongs in the solid time of 1:22.61.

"For a maiden to do what he did was very good," de Seroux said.

Manchurian is owned by the Allen Paulson Living Trust, as is Azeri. Manchurian is likely to reappear in an allowance race, though his debut and bloodlines suggest he will race in stakes.

"We've trained him in the morning like he's a good horse," de Seroux said. "He's been behind horses since he's been going five-eighths."

Sadler: Shorter is better for Hombre Rapido

Hombre Rapido may be finished for the meeting after winning Saturday's $200,000 Los Angeles Times Handicap.

Trainer John Sadler insists that the 6-year-old Hombre Rapido would not be effective over the seven-furlong distance of the $300,000 Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap on July 5 and may wait for the $200,000 Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup Handicap over six furlongs at Del Mar on July 26. The wild card is a potential start in an allowance race over 5 1/2 furlongs on turf in coming weeks.

Owned by Granja Vista del Rio Stable, Hombre Rapido led by at least a length throughout the six-furlong Los Angeles Times Handicap, setting a quick pace to win by a length over Publication.

"I knew he had this kind of ability," Sadler said.

Sadler said that during the race his attention switched between watching the race and checking the tote board for the fractions, which were 21.53 and 43.43 seconds

"When he gets headed, he's not as good," Sadler said. "I wanted to see if he was clear."

Golden Apples has first breeze of comeback

Golden Apples, the 2002 champion turf female, breezed three furlongs in 37.40 seconds on Sunday, her first workout since returning to training after having surgery to remove bone chips from an ankle last fall.

The 5-year-old Golden Apples worked alone. She is not expected to make her 2003 debut until the $400,000 John C. Mabee Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf on July 26, a race formerly known as the Ramona Handicap.

"She looks gorgeous," trainer Ben Cecil said. "I'm very happy so far. It's a long way to go."

Golden Apples will miss the $350,000 Gamely Breeders' Cup Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf, which should draw an outstanding field. The May 26 race is expected to draw Dress to Thrill, the winner of the Matriarch Stakes last November; Garden in the Rain, who was stakes placed at Santa Anita; Dublino and Turtle Bow, from de Seroux's stable; and three females trained by Bobby Frankel, Megahertz, Miss Terrible, and Tates Creek.

Another Cecil trainee, Passinetti, who won the San Juan Capistrano Handicap on April 20, breezed a half-mile on turf in 51.80 seconds. Cecil said the 7-year-old Passinetti is being pointed for the $150,000 Sunset Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf on July 20, the closing day of this meeting. The $250,000 Del Mar Handicap over 1 3/8 miles on turf on Aug. 31 is a long-term possibility for Passinetti.

"Those are two races that tend to come up a little on the soft side," Cecil said.

Many of the circuit's top turf horses are passing those races in favor of the $400,000 Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar on July 27 or the Arlington Million in Chicago in August.

Senorita richest local stakes of the weekend

With the national focus on racing at Pimlico, there are no major races at Hollywood Park this week. The richest race is Saturday's $100,000 Senorita Stakes for 3-year-old fillies over a mile on turf, a prep for the $200,000 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf on June 7.

The Senorita field is led by Bartok's Blithe, the winner of the Melair Stakes for California-breds on April 26, and Major Idea, who won two stakes at Santa Anita earlier this year but was fifth in the Providencia Stakes last month.

Other probables are Little Malvern, Makeup Artist, No Kings, Rutters Renegade, and Shapes and Shadows. Makeup Artist must be supplemented for $5,000.

Sunday's main race is the $75,000 Willard Proctor Memorial Stakes for 2-year-olds over five furlongs. Restricted to nonwinners of two races, the Proctor is the first open stakes of the year for 2-year-olds. Alpenfest, Double Belvedere, Genuine Count, and This Cats Smokin are among the probables.

Bill Klussman, breeder and owner, dead

Bill Klussman, who bred and raced under Oakbrook Farm for 30 years, died on May 5 after a lengthy illness.

Klussman raced Northern Emerald, who won the 1995 Flower Bowl Handicap at Belmont Park. Last October at Santa Anita, Oakbrook Farm was represented by 35-1 Ava Darling, who won a maiden race for 2-year-old fillies.

Klussman is survived by his wife, Pat, and three children. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Wellness Community, 530 Hampshire Rd., Westlake Village, Calif., 91361.