09/30/2002 11:00PM

Why not take a stakes shot?

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ARCADIA, Calif. - A downbeat consensus regarding the quality of the Grade 2 Norfolk Stakes is one reason two longshot contenders may join the field of 2-year-olds racing 1 1/16 miles on Saturday. Although Manhattan Express and Oberwald have won stakes, they would be Norfolk outsiders against Kafwain, Bull Market, and Listen Indy.

Manhattan Express won the $50,000 Gateway to Glory Stakes by more than seven lengths Sept. 26 at Fairplex Park, and trainer A.C. Avila said the colt came out of the race so well he may wheel him right back.

"It looks like the race took nothing out of him, he came back super," Avila said. "Nine days is quick for a 2-year-old, but he jogged well [Monday] and galloped well [Tuesday]."

Manhattan Express earned an 84 Beyer Speed Figure winning the 1 1/16-mile Gateway to Glory, and would be ridden again by Pat Valenzuela.

Neither Manhattan Express nor Fairplex maiden winner Royal Siphon would be the first Pomona shippers to win the Norfolk. Buck Trout won the race in 1998 after finishing second in a Fairplex maiden race; Free House won the 1996 Norfolk after winning a Fairplex maiden race.

Haggin Stakes winner Oberwald went off form this summer, and trainer Mike Harrington is hopeful that surgery to remove undescended testicles will result in an improved effort. Oberwald has not raced since late July.

"It's not a perfect scenario, but he's training well and impresses me as a horse that will route," Harrington said. "Everyone says Swiss Yodelers won't go past 5 1/2 furlongs, but this horse acts like he'll run all day."

Harriman's other option is the seven-furlong Cavonnier on Friday. Wherever he runs next, Oberwald will be a first-time gelding.

Other expected starters include Man Among Men and Mr. Technique.

Congaree sharpens for turf debut

Congaree produced another fast workout Tuesday, a half-mile in 46.60 seconds breezing, and will be favored Saturday in the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile. Congaree has never started on grass, and his front-running style is generally considered more suited to dirt racing. Of course, there are turf milers who run best on the lead.

"That's the way Lure was, wasn't he?" Congaree's trainer, Bob Baffert asked, rhetorically. "[Congaree] just gets out there and goes."

On Saturday, he may have company. Night Patrol's trainer, Nick Canani, said his speedster will not alter strategy. "Congaree is definitely the one to beat, but we'll be out there winging it with him."

The Oak Tree mile field may also include D'wildcat, Nicobar, Spinelessjellyfish, and Zanapour.

Swept Overboard may need a race

A sharp five-furlong workout Monday at Santa Anita has Swept Overboard ready for his comeback in the Grade 1 Ancient Title Handicap on Saturday at six furlongs. Swept Overboard worked in 59.80 seconds, and will be racing for the first time since winning the Met Mile on May 27.

"He had a little setback, but he's doing well now," trainer Craig Dollase said. "It's hard to say he's totally cranked, and in the past, he's always needed a race."

He added that the likelihood of a fast pace would benefit Swept Overboard, who was assigned 121 pounds. Kona Gold, the 124-pound highweight for the Ancient Title, worked five furlongs Monday in 57.40 seconds, but trainer Bruce Headley reiterated that Kona Gold will train up to the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Instead, Headley will start the filly Kalookan Queen in the Ancient Title. Win or lose, Headley said, Kalookan Queen will not go to the Breeders' Cup because of the short time span between the Ancient Title and the Breeders' Cup.

"Twenty-one days is too close, especially for a filly," Headley said.

Kalookan Queen won the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo in her most recent start, and defeated open company in March when she won the Grade 2 Potrero Grande.

Crafty C.T. is a go for the Ancient Title, trainer Howard Zucker said Tuesday. The 4-year-old Crafty C.T. kicked a wall early this week, but the incident did nothing other than alter his training schedule. Crafty C.T. was scheduled for a three-furlong blowout Wednesday morning.

The Ancient Title field is expected to include Swept Overboard, 121; Crafty C.T. and I Love Silver, 116; Avanzado and Mellow Fellow, 115; and Rio Oro and Stoney, 114.

* Banks Hill was scheduled to arrive in California on Wednesday, and will face Golden Apples on Saturday in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon Stakes. Others expected in the 1 1/4-mile turf race for fillies and mares are Nepenthe and Noches De Rosa.

* Reba's Gold won the $100,000 Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Invitational Handicap on Sunday at Fairplex Park, and trainer Dan Hendricks is considering wheeling him right back in the Grade 2 Goodwood Handicap on Sunday. The $500,000 Goodwood is headed by 119-pound starting highweight Momentum. Others expected include Kela, Euchre, and Grey Memo at 116; and Like a Hero and Pleasantly Perfect, 114.

* A small field is taking shape for the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes on Sunday. Expected runners in the 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-old fillies are Composure, Heart Ofa Champion, Sea Jewel, and Buffythecenterfold.

* Oak Tree officials were forced to scrap a pick four on Saturday that would have linked the four graded stakes, citing insufficient time to network the wager around the country, Oak Tree instead will offer its usual pick four on the last four races of Saturday's 10-race card.