03/25/2004 12:00AM

Tough spot for Minister Eric


ARCADIA, Calif. - Minister Eric's tight schedule can afford no interruptions. The 3-year-old colt remains a Kentucky Derby candidate, but time is running out. Minister Eric has raced just once since his second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, which means his second start of the season - a one-other-than allowance race Saturday at Santa Anita - may determine if he is still a legitimate Derby contender.

It is no easy spot for the Richard Mandella trainee. Minister Eric must catch Boomzeeboom, whose March 6 maiden sprint win earned a 106 Beyer Figure, the highest this year by a California-based 3-year-old colt. Boomzeeboom is not aiming for the Derby, according to trainer Vladimir Cerin, who said the Lexington and Preakness are more likely.

A field of eight entered race 6 on Saturday, including improving Dream Place, Entry Point, Lindero, Boss Noss, and Talaris. Boomzeeboom and Minister Eric are the likely favorites.

Minister Eric underwent minor surgery for knee and ankle chips following the Breeders' Cup, and was scheduled to return Feb. 28 in a turf stakes. He did not draw into the field, and Mandella had to wait until March 13 for a comeback sprint, in which Minister Eric finished steadily for third. Becky Witzman, Mandella's assistant trainer, said the turf sprint "was not his thing, but he's done great since."

The only glitch was in a five-furlong workout on March 22, when Minister Eric had to swerve to avoid a spill at the half-mile pole. He continued on, finished well, and was timed in 1:03.40. Victor Espinoza is subbing Saturday for jockey Alex Solis, who rides Pleasantly Perfect for Mandella on Saturday in Dubai.

Boomzeeboom returned from a two-month layoff March 6, and crushed maidens by 8 1/2 lengths. He ran the six furlongs in 1:08.71.

"I don't know if he can go two turns or not, but this is the only year he'll be a 3-year-old," Cerin said, referring to Boomzeeboom's suitability for the second leg of the Triple Crown. A good effort Saturday would give Cerin reason to aim for the Preakness.

Corey Nakatani rides Boomzee-boom, who Cerin said is "more mature, sensible, and relaxed" than when he lost four starts as a 2-year-old.

Castledale might enter derby

Fast workouts are nothing new for Castledale, who has posted four best-of-the-morning moves since January. But the colt's bullet workout Thursday - six furlongs in 1:11.80 - was perhaps his most important, because it gave Castledale's connections reason to consider giving the colt a second chance on dirt next Saturday in the Santa Anita Derby.

"We're kind of tiptoeing down that path, but we're not going to do anything stupid, either," trainer Jeff Mullins said.

The derby would be Castledale's second start on dirt. A Grade 3 winner on turf, Castledale finished sixth in the San Rafael Stakes on March 6, a dirt race in which that Mullins said Castledale "got awfully tired. He was laying a little too close."

Castledale worked Thursday in company, breaking off four lengths behind his older workmate and catching him at the wire. Castledale is owned by Greg Knee and TVG broadcaster Frank Lyons. Mullins does not have a rider for Castledale.

The Santa Anita Derby field is expected to include Lion Heart, Wimbledon, Rock Hard Ten, Imperialism, St Averil, Quintons Gold Rush, Lucky Pulpit, and Totally Platinum.

Jimmy's Instinct shortens up

Route to sprint. "That's my favorite angle," Mullins said. It applies Saturday when Mullins starts Jimmy's Instinct in the $75,000 San Pedro Stakes for 3-year-olds. A field of six entered the 6 1/2-furlong race, the first start for Jimmy's Instinct since March 3, when he set a fast pace and finished third in a one-mile allowance won by Rock Hard Ten.

"I think we've got him tight enough," Mullins said of Jimmy's Instinct, adding that "all we need now is a good trip."

Jimmy's Instinct drew the inside post in a field that includes late-running Courageous Act, stakes-placed Stalking Tiger, European import Straw Poll, recent maiden winner Traffic Update, and Wimplestiltskin. Stalking Tiger finished second in the Grade 3 Baldwin last time out, his first start since last July.

'Outrage' going on to Blue Grass

California-based 3-year-old That's an Outrage may have run himself into the Kentucky Derby picture last weekend in the Lane's End at Turfway Park. Trainer Mike Puhich considered That's an Outrage vulnerable, and the colt tired in the final furlong after pressing the pace under jockey Robby Albarado.

"I told Robby he'd be a little bit short; I babied him because of the bleeding," Puhich said.

That's an Outrage finished third in the Hollywood Futurity in December, but bled and finished seventh in the Jan. 17 Santa Catalina at Santa Anita. Puhich trained the colt lightly afterward and was satisfied with his performance Saturday.

"I was pretty pumped, and so was Robby," Puhich said. "We scoped him, and he didn't bleed."

That's an Outrage, a Quiet American colt who has won one of 10 starts, has shipped to Keeneland and will run April 10 in the Blue Grass. Puhich said that Number Juan, winner of an allowance race on March 20 at Oaklawn Park, would run April 17 in the Lexington at Keeneland.

Hollywood Story to Kentucky Oaks

Despite a modest fourth-place finish in the Santa Anita Oaks, Grade 1 winner Hollywood Story will ship to Churchill Downs and make her next start in the Kentucky Oaks on April 30, trainer John Shirreffs said. Hollywood Story was beaten 3 1/2 lengths in the Santa Anita Oaks; Shirreffs believes she could have finished third had she been able to save ground the final three-eighths.

Owned by George Krikorian, Hollywood Story has one win - in the Dec. 21 Hollywood Starlet - from seven starts. Shirreffs said Victor Espinoza would ride Hollywood Story in the Kentucky Oaks.

Fantasy next for Miss Coronado

Grade 2 winner Miss Coronado will run in the Fantasy Stakes on April 9 at Oaklawn Park, trainer Bobby Frankel said. Winner of the Davona Dale on Feb. 7 at Gulfstream Park, Miss Coronado scratched from the Santa Anita Oaks on March 13, a race that Frankel had only planned to run her in if there were defections.

Frankel also said Midas Eyes would skip the Potrero Grande on Sunday and look for another spot in the East.

Yearly Report's status uncertain

Yearly Report's status for the Kentucky Oaks will remain up in the air after she tied up and was scratched from the $250,000 WinStar Sunland Park Oaks, to be run Saturday at Sunland Park. Trainer Bob Baffert said he "had no answers" regarding Yearly Report, who is owned by the Golden Eagle Farm of Betty Mabee.

"We're just going to give her a few days off and see how she is," Baffert said. "Mrs. Mabee said don't run her if she's not 100 percent."

Yearly Report earned a 107 Beyer Figure winning the Grade 2 Santa Ynez, and has not raced beyond seven furlongs.

Class Above, another filly trained by Baffert, will make her next start in the Kentucky Oaks, Baffert said.