03/01/2002 12:00AM

West's best working, dreaming of May 4

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ARCADIA, Calif. - With two workouts in the last week, Siphonic, the West Coast's leading contender for the Kentucky Derby, remains on schedule for an important start in the $250,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on March 17.

On Friday at Hollywood Park, Siphonic worked seven furlongs in 1:28 to the satisfaction of trainer David Hofmans. There were eight recorded works at the distance, and Siphonic's time equaled the fifth fastest.

"It was a nice, easy work," Hofmans said. "He didn't do anything out of the ordinary."

Last Saturday, Siphonic worked five furlongs.

A top 2-year-old of 2001, Siphonic has made one start this year, finishing second to Labamta Babe in the Santa Catalina Stakes on Jan. 19. Siphonic missed training time in late January and early February because of a fever and a sore neck, which resulted from a poor start in the Santa Catalina.

Hofmans said those incidents will not compromise Siphonic's chances of being ready for the upcoming 3-year-old races.

"There's been no change in him," he said. "He's as good as he's been."

The Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes is a key prep for the Santa Anita Derby on April 6 and is shaping up as an important Kentucky Derby prep. Aside from Siphonic, other probables include Danthebluegrassman, Mayakovsky, Mountain Rage, Puerto Banus, Sunday Break, and U S S Tinosa.

Workmen's comp update

A second insurance company is now offering workmen's compensation insurance in California, but in order to purchase the insurance trainers must also sign up for the company's payroll services.

Amspeo of Irving, Texas, is offering policies through Morningstar Insurance of Arcadia, Calif. According to Morningstar president Kathy Crooymans, 10 trainers have signed up for the service.

California trainers are required to have workmen's compensation insurance for stable employees and jockeys. The workmen's compensation issue has been a major concern for horsemen in the last 10 days after more than 360 trainers were forced to open policies with the State Fund, which was the sole remaining provider available after Legion Insurance Company said it would no longer offer policies in the state.

Many trainers are paying substantially higher rates with State Fund than they were with Legion.

Trainers were required to have policies in place by Friday. At least two trainers at Santa Anita were unable to train their horses because they did not have policies. Kim Lloyd was unable to bring his four horses to the track, but said he intended to have a policy in place by the end of Friday. He said a dispute arose with State Fund regarding the amount of a premium deposit, which he said was based on his previous stable size of 10 to 15 horses.

"I'll have to borrow the money," he said. "It's a shame, but I have to do it. If I was smart, I'd get out, but I enjoy the horses. I'm doing a second job anyway."

Crooymans said the Amspeo policy was designed for high-risk construction companies. She said the payroll obligations require trainers to keep substantial cash in their accounts to handle costs.

"It's not for everybody," she said. "Our rates are approximately 5 or 10 percent lower than the State Fund. It was put together very quickly. We're going to be able to continue to reduce costs. It was a matter of filling a need in a crisis situation."

The Seven Seas retired

The Seven Seas, a multiple stakes winner trained by Bobby Frankel, has been retired and shipped to Kentucky to be bred to Thunder Gulch.

A 6-year-old, The Seven Seas won 6 of 15 starts and $490,818. Imported from France in late 1999, she won the Grade 3 Bewitch Stakes at Keeneland in 2000 and consecutive runnings of the Estrapade Stakes at Hollywood Park in 2000 and 2001.

Owned by Audrey Skirball-Kenis and Charles Kenis, The Seven Seas made her final start in the minor Reloy Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb. 1, finishing fourth as a heavy favorite.

Kona Gold and Officer work

Two major stakes winners from 2001 worked on Friday at Santa Anita, preparing for comebacks. Kona Gold, the champion sprinter of 2000, worked three furlongs in 35.60 seconds. Officer, the winner of the Champagne Stakes, breezed three furlongs in 36.60 seconds. It was his first work since returning to the track following a third-place finish in the Hollywood Futurity last December.

Shuffling Kid to Big A for Bay Shore

Three-year-old turf sprinter Shuffling Kid, front-running winner of the Grade 3 Baldwin Stakes Feb. 24 at Santa Anita, will ship to Aqueduct and switch to dirt for his next start. Trainer Mike Machowsky has penciled in the Grade 3 Bay Shore Stakes on April 13 as the next start for the English-bred gelding, who is 2 for 2 in this country.

"With his speed, he should be able to clear, and he trains excellent on dirt," Machowsky said. "I was tempted to run him on dirt first time in this country." Instead, Machowsky ran Shuffling Kid in two turf sprints, both of which he won. In his most recent start, Shuffling Kid set a fast pace and won the Baldwin by a head. The Baldwin-Bay Shore double is not unprecedented. Last year's Baldwin winner, Skip to the Stone, followed his off-the-turf Baldwin victory with a similar score in the Bay Shore. Overall, Shuffling Kid has won 3 of 11.

- additional reporting by Brad Free