09/11/2002 11:00PM

Two to use are off form


POMONA, Calif. - Pomona Derby winner Sigfreto, who has not won a race in nearly a year, returns Saturday to the scene of his greatest triumph. Graded stakes winner Dr. Park, winless in 14 months, also seeks a revival Saturday at Fairplex Park. Their droughts have been long, and skeptics wagering on the $50,000 Phil D. Shepherd Stakes may wonder - have Sigfreto and Dr. Park lost a step?

Eight older horses entered the 1 1/16-mile Shepherd, the Thoroughbred highlight on a 12-race card that concludes with a match race between racing mules Black Ruby and Taz. Black Ruby is the 2-5 favorite in the mule race, but the Shepherd is less clear. The favorites are vulnerable.

Neither Sigfreto nor Dr. Park, both 4, has run particularly well since returning this summer from lengthy layoffs, and there are no assurances that either will return to peak form. There's good reason to consider six others as viable longshot candidates - Dereck, J.T.'s Song, Most Likely, Moving's Gold, Reef Diver, and Sign of Fire.

Sigfreto's trainer, Doug Peterson, hopes a return to the five-eighths-mile track at Fairplex - site of the 17-day Los Angeles County Fair meet - will provide a wake-up call. Sigfreto needs it, because four months after last year's Pomona Derby win, he was on the sidelines. He has not been the same since.

"He hadn't had a rest since I bought him," Peterson said. "I wanted to freshen him up, recharge his batteries, and bring him back for Del Mar and Fairplex. He loves it here."

Owned by Richard O'Neill and Peterson, Sigfreto has won five races and $188,660 from 19 starts. In both comeback races, he beat only one horse. But at Fairplex, Peterson said, "horses like Sigfreto just fly around there."

Sigfreto has galloped strongly all week at Fairplex, and might have excuses for his dull comeback efforts. He was short Aug. 2, and Peterson said he ran him back too soon Aug. 15. Peterson still hopes to run Sigfreto Sept. 29 in the $100,000 Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Invitational Handicap.

Dr. Park's goals are less specific. He won the Grade 3 Will Rogers in a dead heat, then scored a sharp win in the faster division of the Oceanside. Dr. Park was injured in the fall, returned in July, but his three starts since have been nondescript.

"He's been disappointing," trainer John Sadler said. "We thought we'd try something different. He always trained well on dirt. The five-eighths track shouldn't bother him, he's a very handy horse."

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