03/18/2002 12:00AM

Two-furlong rites of spring starting


ARCADIA, Calif. - It may be only the first day of spring, but 2-year-old racing starts at Santa Anita on Wednesday with a two-furlong dash for California-bred fillies.

Over the years, the two-furlong races have drawn a wide range of talent, from future stars such as Golden Ballet, who parlayed the experience of two losses in such races in 2000 to a career that include six stakes victories, to a great majority of others who never made a significant impact.

Wednesday's first race drew 20 entrants - 10 in the body of the race, four on an also-eligible list, and six who were not listed on the overnight. Betting action may help suggest which horses are live. The race includes starters from trainers Jerry Dutton, Lonnie Stokes, Caesar Dominguez, Leonard Duncan, and Wesley Ward, who annually have juveniles ready early in the season.

The field has drawn starters who have been training here as well as Fairplex Park, Hollywood Park, and San Luis Rey Downs in northern San Diego county.

Four stallions - Souvenir Copy, Swiss Yodeler, Western Fame, and Wild Deputy - could have their first winners.

Stokes starts Solar Bee, an In Excess filly owned and bred by Bill Peeples. Solar Bee had two works at Santa Anita - on March 10 and 16 - and will be ridden by Chad Giles, a Quarter Horse jockey on the Utah-Wyoming circuit. Giles won three straightaway races at the 1996-97 Santa Anita winter-spring meeting, but has not won since, with only a few mounts each year.

Because of the distance, the races take on the flavor of Quarter Horse events. Los Alamitos regulars Eddie Aceves and Modesto Linares have mounts. But unlike Quarter Horse races, the two-furlong races do not allow horses to be fitted with blinkers or for jockeys to carry whips. The emphasis is on gaining experience.

Ward may be the unlucky trainer of the bunch. He entered Hollywood Honey, a Distinctive Cat filly bought by a partnership for $55,000 at the Del Mar Yearling Sale last August. She is stuck on the also-eligible list. Hollywood Honey has had three bullet workouts at Santa Anita over one and two furlongs, but they were recorded on days with only a few workers at those distances.

Dutton starts Timely Toss, a Tossofthecoin filly who was purchased for $5,000 at the 2001 Barretts January mixed sale. Even though Timely Toss zipped two furlongs in 22.80 last Friday, Dutton is not sure of her ability.

"I don't know how good she is," Dutton said. "That's my problem."

Santa Ana shaping up

Starine and Golden Apples, the first- and third-place finishers in the Matriarch Stakes last November at Hollywood Park, are among the leading candidates for Saturday's $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap.

Both Starine and Golden Apples (Del Mar Oaks) are Grade 1 winners. They will be joined by Astra, the winner of the Grade 1 Beverly Hills Handicap last June; Janet, the winner of the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon Stakes last September; and Tout Charmant, the multiple stakes winner millionaire. Desiraes My Candy, a longshot, is a probable and will be ridden by Laffit Pincay, Jr., who guided Medaglia d'Oro to an upset win in Sunday's San Felipe Stakes.

Bella Belluci returns in Santa Paula

The Santa Ana Handicap is the most prestigious of four stakes run at Santa Anita on the weekend, but one of the minor races - the $75,000 Santa Paula Stakes - will play a role in the build-up to the Kentucky Oaks.

Bella Belluci, third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last October, makes her 3-year-old debut in the sprint over 6 1/2 furlongs. Trained by Neil Drysdale, she won the Astarita Breeders' Cup Stakes last fall at Belmont Park.

The Santa Paula is expected to include Blazing Deputy, Boozin' Susan, Icantgoforthat, Rich Musique, Shameful, and Spring Meadow.

Saturday's program also includes the $75,000 San Pedro Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs for 3-year-olds. Werblin, Roman Dancer, and Saturday Hero are likely starters.

On Sunday, the most lucrative stakes is the $125,000 Crystal Water Handicap for California-breds. Native Desert, a winner of $1,583,891, makes his 9-year-old debut in the one-mile turf race. He won the California Cup Mile last November.

The other probables include Beautiful Balance, Golden General, Lily's Lad, Macward, Ringaskiddy, and Spinelessjellyfish.

Threewitt gets first win of year

Trainer Noble Threewitt, the senior member of the local roster at 91, won his first race of 2002 when L'Effaceur led throughout a one-mile turf race for $62,500 claimers.

The 5-year-old L'Effaceur was making his first start for Threewitt and owner Michael Jawl, having been claimed for $50,000 following a runner-up finish on March 2.

Threewitt has six horses based at Santa Anita.

Aguirre fined

Trainer Paul Aguirre was fined $1,500 on Sunday for recently betting on a horse other than one of his own.

Aguirre admitted to cashing a pick six ticket that did not include one of his starters, but said the ticket was a gift from a horse owner who is one of his clients.

Aguirre indicated he did not plan to appeal, but was disappointed that Santa Anita stewards issued the ruling even though owner Alex Wong provided testimony on the trainer's behalf.

* Bella Bella Bella, a stakes-winning California-bred 3-year-old filly who won her first three starts before losing her last two for trainer Jenine Sahadi, has been transferred to trainer Neil Drysdale.

* Jockey Joy Scott has resumed galloping horses as she nears a return to action since being badly injured in an accident at Los Alamitos on Jan. 19, 2001. She has had three operations since the accident. She should be able to ride again by the end of the month.

* Tom Varela, who has worked in racetrack management at Santa Anita, Turf Paradise, and Del Mar, has been named general manager of Southern California Off-Track Wagering. Varela, 37, will replace Al Karwacki, who is retiring fat the end of April.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman