07/14/2005 12:00AM

Two options for Surf Cat

Surf Cat will return in either the Haskell on Aug. 7 or the Pacific Classic on Aug. 21.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Surf Cat, the winner of the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park on July 9, will return in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 7 or the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 21, trainer Bruce Headley said Thursday.

Headley is debating whether to ship Surf Cat out of Southern California for the first time to start at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, or to stay home and try older horses for the first time in the Pacific Classic.

One perk of going to the Haskell is that Monmouth Park management would subsidize the shipping, Headley said. "They said they would pay for everything," he said.

Headley said it's a tough decision.

"I'm leaving both options open," Headley said. "One is at my favorite place, and one is for 3-year-olds."

In the 14-year history of the Pacific Classic, Del Mar's richest race, 3-year-olds have won the race three times: Best Pal in 1991, General Challenge in 1999, and Came Home in 2002.

Surf Cat and the rest of the Headley stable are already based at Del Mar, which opens Wednesday.

"I've already galloped him twice down here," Headley said. "He went smooth and was not shaken up by that race. He even looks better to me after what he did. He's such a natural athlete. His agility puts him in position without any effort."

Owned by Headley's wife, Aase, and Marsha Naify, Surf Cat has won 3 of 6 starts and $290,020. Surf Cat won his first stakes in the Swaps, attending the pace to the final turn before drawing off to win by five lengths. Surf Cat was second by a neck to Indian Ocean after a wide trip in the Affirmed Handicap on June 18, a loss that frustrated Headley and jockey Alex Solis.

In the Swaps, Solis had Surf Cat closer to the front.

"I never tell Alex what to do," Headley said. "He knows the horse, and he knows my style."

Surf Cat has emerged as an exciting 3-year-old at a time when that division in California has needed a boost. Giacomo, the Kentucky Derby winner, and Wilko, the winner of the 2004 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, are both injured and will be sidelined until the winter. Declan's Moon, the champion 2-year-old male of 2004, is returning from injury but will not start until the fall at the earliest.

Tucked Away looks to end drought

Tucked Away, who was scratched from the Vanity Handicap on July 3, will attempt to end a seven-race losing streak in Saturday's $75,000 Valkyr Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares.

Tucked Away heads a field of five in the Valkyr, which is being run over six furlongs on dirt for the first time in its 22-year history. Not run last year, the Valkyr was run at one mile on turf in 2003.

Trained by Paddy Gallagher for Nico Nierenberg, Tucked Away finished third in the B. Thoughtful Stakes for statebred females in April and was second in the Grade 3 Desert Stormer Handicap over six furlongs here June 5. Her last win came in the Solana Beach Handicap over a mile on turf at Del Mar last September.

"We're trying to pick the right spot," Gallagher said.

Gallagher said he envisions the Valkyr Stakes as a prep for the $150,000 Rancho Bernardo Handicap over 6 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar on Aug. 19. The Rancho Bernardo is a Grade 3. Tucked Away has yet to win a graded stakes.

"Those are races that can give her a little potential as a broodmare prospect," Gallagher said.

The other four fillies and mares in the Valkyr have yet to win a stakes. Crowded Room and Dee Dee's Diner are making their first start in a stakes.

Stanley Park out with quarter crack

A quarter crack will prevent Stanley Park from starting in Sunday's $150,000 Sunset Handicap, the closing-day feature of the Hollywood Park meeting.

Trainer John Shirreffs said Stanley Park is undergoing treatment and should be able to start at Del Mar.

Stanley Park won the San Luis Rey Handicap at Santa Anita in March, but has lost his last two starts, both in stakes.

The Grade 2 Sunset is run over 1 1/2 miles on turf. The conditions are ideal for two hopefuls trained by Neil Drysdale - Always First and One Off.

Both are trying the distance for the first time in this country. Always First, who won an allowance race here over 1 1/4 miles on turf April 22, finished fourth in the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes over 1 1/2 miles on turf in England last year. The winner of that race, Rule of Law, returned to win the Group 1 English St. Leger.

One Off, who won six consecutive races in England in 2003, was promoted from second to first in an allowance race over 1 1/4 miles on turf June 23. In that race, both One Off and Always First were stuck behind pacesetter Star Pupil in the stretch and bumped into one another at a pivotal time. One Off lost by a length and emerged from the race unscathed, Drysdale said. Always First was promoted from fourth to third.

"They've been a little unlucky, a lot unlucky," Drysdale said. "They're both mile-and-a-half horses, and they finally get to run that."

The probable starters for the Sunset also include Runaway Dancer, T.H. Approval, and Continuously.

Pico Central set for August return

Pico Central, a top sprinter in 2004 who has not started since finishing fourth in the $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai in March, will return to racing in August, but trainer Paulo Lobo has yet to finalize a spot.

Races such as the $300,000 Bing Crosby Handicap at Del Mar on July 31, the $200,000 Alfred Vanderbilt at Saratoga on Aug. 13, and the $150,000 Arlington Breeders' Cup Sprint at Arlington Park on Aug. 31 are being considered.

"I would prefer to stay in California," Lobo said.

Lobo said that Pico Central's goal for the fall is the $500,000 Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 1. Owned by Gary Tanaka, Pico Central is not nominated for the Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park on Oct. 29 and would have to be supplemented.

Wednesday, Pico Central worked five furlongs in 1:00.