03/29/2006 12:00AM

Wilko stays overseas, for now

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Wilko has been sent to trainer Jeremy Noseda's stable in England to prep for the Met Mile at Belmont Park.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Wilko, who finished third in the $6 million Dubai World Cup at Nad Al Sheba racecourse last Saturday, will spend the next few months in England with trainer Jeremy Noseda before returning to the United States later this year, majority owner Paul Reddam said Wednesday.

Wilko, 4, will be sent to Noseda's stable in Newmarket, England, on Sunday, and will be pointed for the $600,000 Metropolitan Mile Handicap at Belmont Park on May 29.

Noseda trained Wilko as a 2-year-old in 2004, a season that included an upset win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Lone Star Park. Over the following 16 months, Wilko made nine starts for California trainer Craig Dollase, including a third in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 4. Wilko rejoined Noseda in Dubai to prepare for the World Cup.

Reddam said the plan to keep Wilko in England for the spring was reached on Sunday in an effort to lessen the stress of extensive traveling.

"We called an audible on Sunday," Reddam said. "The ideal plan is to give him time to regroup before putting him back in training. He would be a big contender for the Met Mile. Jeremy would run the horse off the plane."

Reddam said the long-term plan is for Wilko to return to Dollase's stable.

"It should be stated that Craig deserved a lot of credit. He was very supportive" of the trip to Dubai, Reddam said.

Wilko finished 4 1/2 lengths behind Electrocutionist in the Dubai World Cup, run at 1 1/4 miles. Ridden by Garrett Gomez, Wilko was third early and fought for the lead in early stretch before fading.

"If he could have just waited before he had to ask him to run," said Reddam. "I think he proved he's a top-class horse. I was over the moon with the way he ran."

Wilko has won 3 of 21 starts and $1,796,574. The third-place finish in the Dubai World Cup was worth $600,000.

Vague targets BC Distaff

Reddam said that Vague, a stakes winner in Dubai in February, may start in the United States later this year after a summer campaign in England. Her long-term goal is the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Vague is recovering from what Reddam called a "slight" hairline fracture of a shin, but recently passed a veterinarian's exam and can return to training, Reddam said. She won the UAE 1000 Guineas for Noseda this year.

Martinez to hang up tack

Jockey Felipe Martinez, 42, will retire from riding after the Sunday card at Santa Anita, his agent, Alex Procel, said Wednesday afternoon. Procel said Martinez decided several months ago that the Santa Anita winter meet would be his last. He will move to Montana with his wife, Adrienne, and children Marcus, Isabel, and Isaac.

Martinez was the regular rider for graded stakes winner Whilly, and entered Wednesday ranked 13th in the standings with 21 wins.

El Roblar a work in progress

Since he won his debut in January 2005, El Roblar has been a horse that has commanded attention. He has won four of his six starts, but has yet to win a graded stakes.

Saturday, El Roblar, 4, is one of two starters trained by Richard Mandella in the $100,000 Tokyo City Handicap, a Grade 3 at 1 1/8 miles. Mandella also starts Congrats, who was second in the 2005 Santa Anita Handicap.

The Tokyo City is the final handicap race of the Santa Anita meeting. Other probable starters include Bully Hayes, Texcess, and Truly a Judge.

El Roblar won his 2006 debut on March 2 in a one-mile allowance race. He rallied late to win by a half-length, looking like a horse who wants more distance.

"He's trained a little more seriously since his last race," Mandella said.

Owned by Jess Jackson, El Roblar won a division of the restricted Oceanside Stakes on turf at Del Mar last summer, but was only third in the Grade 2 La Jolla and ninth in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby before being given the rest of the year off.

Mandella said that El Roblar is still progressing.

"El Roblar is developing," Mandella said. "Last year, he was a little disappointing. I want to get a foundation started."

Congrats, 6, finished seventh in the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap at seven furlongs on Feb. 18, his first start since finishing eighth in the Pacific Classic last August. The loss has not led to a panic in the Mandella stable, especially after assistant trainer Angel Vega reminded that Congrats had finished sixth in the Native Diver Handicap in December 2004, which was essentially the start of his 2005 campaign. Congrats rebounded to win the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap in January 2005, a performance that Mandella hopes will be duplicated on Saturday.

No definite plans for Giacomo

Trainer John Shirreffs is in no hurry to plan the next start for Giacomo, the 2005 Kentucky Derby winner who finished fifth in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 4.

Giacomo has had one half-mile workout since the Big Cap and is expected to work this weekend.

"We're taking our time with him," Shirreffs said. "He's galloping."

Giacomo is winless in four starts since the Kentucky Derby, including a third in the Strub Stakes on Feb. 4, his first start of this year. He was not nominated for the Tokyo City Handicap.

Giacomo may start during the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting, though Shirreffs was non-committal on Wednesday.

"It's possible," he said. "I really haven't looked yet, not until he has a good workout. I'm waiting for him to tell me."

Riding, training titles up for grabs

Three jockeys remain in contention for the meet's riding title: Patrick Valenzuela, the current leader, followed by Victor Espinoza and Garrett Gomez.

Through Sunday, Valenzuela had 65 wins, but he has been plagued recently by minor injuries. Espinoza and Gomez missed part of last week to ride in Dubai, but are within range of Valenzuela. Espinoza, who returned from Dubai to win twice on Sunday, has 57 wins, one more than Gomez.

The trainers' race is equally tight. Defending champion Doug O'Neill has 35 wins, three more than Bob Baffert.

* Balance, the winner of the Las Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks at this meeting, worked six furlongs in 1:12 at Hollywood Park on Wednesday. She is a candidate for the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland on April 8.

- additional reporting by Brad Free