10/07/2003 12:00AM

Tradition Rocks needs his best


ARCADIA, Calif. - Tradition Rocks will be seeking redemption for his owner, trainer, and jockey - not to mention bettors - on Thursday at Santa Anita, where he will start favored in a mile turf allowance that goes as the seventh race.

It was four days ago, Sunday, when Marty Wygod-owned Yankee Gentleman finished a dull fourth as the 6-5 favorite in the Grade 1 Ancient Title Handicap. Thirty minutes later, Julio Canani-trained Special Ring finished a dull fourth under jockey David Flores as the 7-10 favorite in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile.

Wygod, Canani, and Flores team Thursday with Tradition Rocks in a three-other-than optional $100,000 claiming race. Unlike Yankee Gentleman and Special Ring, who were prepping for the Breeders' Cup, there is no major-race agenda for Tradition Rocks. He has won two straight since being gelded and joining the Canani barn, and he will be favored for the seventh time in eight career starts Thursday.

The betting support is understandable. Tradition Rocks won a mile turf race in 1:33.06 in his Aug. 10 comeback, then returned to win a two-other-than allowance on Sept. 7 in 1:41.29 for 1 1/16 miles. "That race was better than the race before," Canani said. "He was five wide the whole race,"

Tradition Rocks, 3 for 8 lifetime, was turned out last fall after winning 1 of 6 for Bob Baffert. He was sent to Canani during the spring-summer meet at Hollywood Park and has been perfect since.

Canani describes Tradition Rocks, sired by Spinning World, as "a little horse, a nice horse." He will have to be a fast horse Thursday. He is one of 11 starters in the mile race, and several have credentials to knock him off.

Dell Place won a three-other-than optional $80,000 claimer Sept. 4 in his first start since being transferred to trainer Mike Mitchell.

Dell Place has won 4 of 18.

Long Gone Con drops out of a $100,000 Cal-bred stakes and fits off his runner-up finish one start back. A 5-year-old claimed by Doug O'Neill for $80,000 in June, Long Gone Con will press the pace likely to be set by Doc Holiday.

O'Neill will also start Sea to See, who last time out missed by only 3 1/4 lengths to Designed for Luck.

Baffert will try to knock off his former trainee Tradition Rocks by starting Trial by Jury. A 3-for-8 son of Deputy Minister, Trial by Jury finished third behind Dell Place in his most recent start.

Other starters include the entry of Reef Diver and Lord Jim, Stratus, South American import Que Borges, and Wixoe Express.