12/31/2002 12:00AM

Vindication shakes off rust in three-furlong workout

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The last day of 2002 on Tuesday melded seamlessly with the dawn of 2003 at Santa Anita, when the unbeaten Vindication, the probable Eclipse Award winner as champion 2-year-old colt and the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby, had his first work since capturing the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

The work was a mere three furlongs, just something to knock the cobwebs off of Vindication, who had been in light training since his overpowering victory at Arlington Park two months ago. But it signaled that the road to the Kentucky Derby is about to begin in earnest for the crop of runners who turned age 3 on Jan. 1.

On a cool, clear morning, Vindication came onto the track at 9:20, shortly after a renovation break. With exercise rider Dana Barnes up, Vindication breezed three furlongs in 36.60 seconds.

"It's time to go back to school," Vindication's trainer, Bob Baffert, said after the Seattle Slew colt worked. "He'll come around quickly. He's an athlete. He's got a chiseled-out body."

Baffert purposely gave Vindication time off after the Breeders' Cup to have him ready for the demands of the new year. "I wanted to freshen him up," Baffert said.

Although Vindication comes from a line of horses who tend to be hot-blooded, Baffert kept the colt's emotions in check during his juvenile campaign by racing him lightly and not pressing on him in his training. That is a philosophy he intends to follow early in the new year, too.

Pleasantly Perfect progressing

Pleasantly Perfect, who has not raced since capturing the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at this track's Oak Tree meeting last fall, continued to near a scheduled comeback in the Feb. 2 San Antonio Handicap with a five-furlong work in 1:00.20 Tuesday morning.

"So far, everything is going to plan, but there's a lot of planning left," said Richard Mandella, who trains Pleasantly Perfect.

Pleasantly Perfect worked in company with the promising Listen Indy, a 3-year-old colt who finished third in last fall's Norfolk Stakes. He also was timed in 1:00.20.

"It was a real nice work for both of them," Mandella said.

Listen Indy, according to Mandella, is about three or four weeks away from a race. Mandella said he did not have a specific race picked out. Listen Indy only owns a maiden win, so he still is eligible to first-level allowance conditions.

Deep field for San Pasqual

Saturday's $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap, which precedes the San Antonio as preps for older horses for the March 1 Santa Anita Handicap, is shaping up as a surprisingly deep race for an early season stakes. The field will be headed by Congaree, winner of the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. Jerry Bailey is coming in from Florida for the ride.

Others expected for the 1 1/16-mile San Pasqual include Cottage, Euchre, Fleetstreet Dancer, Hot Market, Kela, Kudos, Mercenary, Nose the Trade, Piensa Sonando, and possibly Freedom Crest.

Hot Market, whose early speed mirrors that of Congaree, tuned up for the San Pasqual on Tuesday by working a half-mile in 48 seconds. He will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux.

No record for Frankel

D. Wayne Lukas's single-season record for earnings by a trainer has lasted since 1988, and will continue for at least another season.

Bobby Frankel came within hailing distance of Lukas's record of $17,842,358, but he came up short on Tuesday. His horses had earned $17,739,940 entering the final day of 2002. Needing to win with both of his starters at Santa Anita on Tuesday, Frankel was mathematically eliminated after his first runner, Sumitas, could only manage to finish third in the fifth race.

Two weekend stakes come up light

Saturday's co-feature, the $100,000 Pro or Con Handicap for California-bred female turf runners at one mile, is expected to have a small field, with Bob's Lady, Nicole's Pursuit, Serene in Seattle, Shalini, Top of Our Game, and possibly Elaine's Angel.

Sunday's $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes, for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles, also is coming up light. Dash for Money, Sea Jewel, and Summer Wind Dancer are among the possibilities, with Shapes and Shadows a likely supplement. Summer Wind Dancer worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Tuesday.

Sea Jewel's status was to be determined by a workout on Wednesday, trainer John Shirreffs said, though he was intrigued by the prospective small field.

The Santa Ysabel is suffering in part from the new Sunshine Millions races on Jan. 25. Atlantic Ocean, who was nominated to the Santa Ysabel, is skipping the race in order to run for $250,000 in the Sunshine Millions Oaks at seven furlongs, according to her trainer, Baffert.

Sunday's co-feature, the $100,000 Sensational Star Handicap for Cal-bred sprinters at 6 1/2 furlongs on turf, is expected to include Gibson County, Long Gone Con, Macward, McCordnskuba, Sea to See, Spinelessjellyfish, and Turkish Prize.

* Domestic Dispute (four furlongs, 47.80 seconds) and Truckle Feature (five furlongs, 1:00.40) both worked on Tuesday in preparation for the Jan. 18 Santa Catalina Stakes, Santa Anita's first graded two-turn stakes race this season for 3-year-old males.

* Friday's $100,000 Survive Stakes, for older Cal-bred female sprinters at 5 1/2 furlongs, is expected to include Above Perfection, who recently was sold as part of a dispersal of bloodstock of owner David Milch. She is now trained by Mike Smith. Darrell Vienna had trained her previously. Her rivals are expected to include Cinnful Bride, Harvest Girl, Icantgoforthat, Kitty on the Track, Party Pirate, and Sweetcakesanshakes.