“It’s a challenge when you can’t run (race) them,” said Mandella, who shelved Rock Hard Ten for the spring and winter because the colt was suffering from “aches and pains – nothing serious.” “But when you have a Gentlemen, a Pleasantly Perfect or a Rock Hard Ten, you can do a lot of things that you can’t do with other horses,” Mandella said. “He’s got a mind of his own. But in the last few months he’s gotten better and better to work with. Maybe he’s grown up a little bit.” Rock Hard Ten, who will be ridden by Gary Stevens at the Breeders’ Cup, was handled by Paul Nilluang when he worked 7 furlongs Thursday in company with stablemate Dixie Glow. He worked out at 12:30 p.m. rather than during the morning because Mandella wanted the track dry and well-groomed. Gliding past Dixie Glow on the turn, Rock Hard Ten finished about five lengths in front and was clocked in 1:25 3/5. He clicked off steady quarter-miles in the 24 2/5-second range. “Not too hard, not to easy,” Mandella said. “He does make it look easy.” The Daily Racing Form odds-maker lists Rock Hard Ten as the 7-2 second choice to Saint Liam (3-1) for the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. Of horses who have been training in California, only Lost in the Fog (even-money) in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint goes to New York with shorter odds. Other solid West Coast hopes among the 117 horses who passed the “pre-entry” stage Wednesday for the eight Breeders’ Cup races: Singletary (8-1), defending champion in the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Mile, Megahertz (5-1) in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, Stevie Wonderboy (8-1) in the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and Wild Fit (6-1) in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Race lineups will be set Wednesday. Trouble for P. Val? Jockey Patrick Valenzuela, who was late contacting the track officials when he missed Wednesday’s races at Santa Anita, was ordered off mounts through Sunday on doctor’s orders because of a sore foot. Valenzuela, whose history of substance abuse makes any unannounced absence a red flag, met with Oak Tree stewards Thursday morning and was ordered to take a drug test. Steward George Slender said Valenzuela and agent Ronnie Ebanks claimed neither man contacted officials Wednesday because of miscommunication between the two. Slender said they produced evidence Valenzuela left a cellular-phone message for Ebanks on Wednesday morning. Valenzuela, 43, had taken off six mounts Sunday after complaining about the bad foot. The 1989 Kentucky Derby winner with Sunday Silence, Valenzuela returned from his latest long suspension in January to ride under a conditional license that subjects him to random drug tests. Kevin Modesti is a Daily News columnist. His horse racing column appears on Friday. He can be reached at [email protected] OAK TREE LEADERS Through Wednesday Jockeys, Wins Garrett Gomez 27 Patrick Valenzuela 14 Martin Pedroza 13 Alex Solis 13 Victor Espinoza 12 Trainers, Wins Jeff Mullins 10 John Sadler 8 Bob Baffert 6 Julio Canani 6 Steve Knapp 6 ON THE STAKES SCHEDULE Oak Tree at Santa Anita Saturday $75,000 Sunny Slope Stakes, 2-year-olds, 6 furlongs. Sunday $75,000 Anoakia Stakes, 2-year-old fillies, 6 furlongs. Golden Gate Fields Saturday $100,000 Tanforan Handicap, 3-year-olds and up, 1 miles(turf). Woodbine Sunday $2 million (Canadian) Canadian International, 3-year-olds and up, 1 miles (turf). $1 million (Canadian) E.P. Taylor Stakes, 3-year-old-and-up fillies and mares, 1 miles (turf). A WEEK AT THE RACES Blood testing for high bicarbonate levels in horses, previously conducted by tracks in association with horsemen, was taken over Wednesday by the California Horse Racing Board. Evidence of so-called “milkshaking” could lead to disqualifications, suspensions and fines. Garrett Gomez is riding away with the Oak Tree jockeys championship after winning four more races Thursday. Lava Man bled in his bad effort in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, trainer Doug O’Neill said, and won’t run in the Breeders’ Cup. The Hollywood Gold Cup winner could race next in the Nov. 6 California Cup Classic or at the Nov. 26 Japan Cup. Corey Nakatani will be at Toronto’s Woodbine race course Sunday to ride Christophe Clement-trained Relaxed Gesture in the Canadian International and Cassydora in the E.P. Taylor. Victor Espinoza will be at Bay Meadows Saturday to ride Secret Charm for trainer Neil Drysdale in the Tanforan Handicap. Oak Tree’s Friday first post is 2 p.m. beginning today. It was 2:30. Powerscourt, the British-bred Arlington Million winner who might have been favored in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, has been retired to stud in Kentucky. Michael Wrona will call the Oak Tree races on Oct. 28-29 while Trevor Denman is in New York to analyze the Breeders’ Cup for NBC. Bobble-head likenesses of Denman will be given out Sunday at the Oak Tree races, but only to members of Santa Anita’s Thoroughbreds frequent-fans club. – Kevin Modesti 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Rock Hard Ten, one of 22 Breeders’ Cup hopefuls who have been training in California, flies out of Ontario early Sunday morning and is expected to have only light gallops at Belmont Park in the days before the Oct. 29 races. Is he good enough to win the Classic and lay claim to the Horse of the Year title? That’s the question to be answered when the enormous 4-year-old takes on Saint Liam, Borrego, Flower Alley and others in the day’s main event. The 4-year-old winner of the Santa Anita Handicap in March has finished first in seven of 11 career starts, including four in a row since owners Ernest Moody, Maria Vila and Madeleine Pickens (formerly Paulson) moved him from Jason Orman to Mandella. But he has never earned a Beyer speed figure higher than 112, a rating exceeded by Saint Liam, Borrego and Perfect Drift on their best days. In his pre-Mandella days, he was no match for top-quality Smarty Jones and Lion Heart in the major 3-year-old events. And the colt who used to be the bane of starting-gate crews is winless in three starts when shipped outside California. His edge in the $4 million Classic is that he has a Hall of Fame trainer calling the shots – Mandella won the 2003 Classic with Pleasantly Perfect – and appears on top of his game after the nearly seven-month gap between the Santa Anita Handicap and Goodwood. Richard Mandella stepped down from the bench on which the trainer stood to watch Rock Hard Ten’s early-afternoon workout with the aid of the infield video screen and a stopwatch, and summed up what he’d seen. “Perfect,” Mandella said from beneath a Panama hat as he followed Rock Hard Ten on the walk back to the barn. ARCADIA – If Rock Hard Ten is good enough, the big horse in the California contingent will win the Breeders’ Cup Classic next week in New York. Fitness questions can be put aside after his victory in the Goodwood Handicap earlier this month and his smooth performance in one last pre-Breeders’ Cup workout Thursday.