11/24/2003 1:00AM

Big fields, top horses in Turf Festival

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - With six graded stakes over three days, this weekend's Autumn Turf Festival at Hollywood Park is shaping up as the highlight of the fall season. The races by and large have big fields with top-class horses, most notably Sunday's Grade 1, $500,000 Matriarch Stakes, which is finding its new one-mile distance to be extremely popular.

Heat Haze, who won the Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park this summer, is expected to head a full field of 14 that includes Yellow Ribbon runner-up Musical Chimes, European standout Etoile Montante, and last year's Matriarch winner, Dress to Thrill.

Heat Haze worked a slow five furlongs (1:04) on the Hollywood Park main track on Monday morning.

There was plenty of action on the Hollywood turf on Sunday morning, when 29 horses worked in a flurry of activity. Dress to Thrill went an easy half-mile in 51 seconds with Patrick Valenzuela, who will ride her in the Matriarch. Dedication worked a half-mile in 50 seconds, and Belleski worked seven furlongs in 1:26.80.

The Matriarch field is expected to include Acago (Julie Krone riding), Belleski (Victor Espinoza), Chopinina, Dancal (Javier Castellano), Dedication (Corey Nakatani), Dress to Thrill (Valenzuela), Etoile Montante (Jerry Bailey), Heat Haze (John Velazquez), Island Fashion (Iggy Puglisi), Magic Mission, Maiden Tower (David Flores), Mer de Corail, and Musical Chimes - and, possibly, Blind Ambition, Garden in the Rain, and Miss Terrible. A maximum of 14 horses can run.

Etoile Montante, who is trained by Christiane Head-Marak in France, will be transferred to the barn of Bobby Frankel after the race. Frankel also trains Heat Haze, who, like Etoile Montante, is owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms. Mer de Corail is trained by John Hammond in France, but will be transferred to Patrick Biancone after the race.

Big field for Hollywood Derby, too

A maximum of 14 are allowed to run in Sunday's Grade 1, $600,000 Hollywood Derby, but as of Monday, 17 3-year-olds were being considered for the 1 1/4-mile race, headed by Secretariat Stakes winner Kicken Kris and Del Mar Derby winner Fairly Ransom.

If more than 14 are entered, the field is determined by victories in graded stakes, then in-the-money finishes in graded stakes, and, finally, overall earnings this year.

Kicken Kris arrived on Monday from the East Coast, along with Fortune Writers and Willard Straight. Kicken Kris has improved markedly since moving to the turf this spring. In addition to winning the Secretariat, he won Belmont's Lawrence Realization Stakes in his last start.

Fairly Ransom worked seven furlongs on turf on Sunday at Hollywood Park in 1:28. Blue Blood Boot (1:28.40) and Darinski (1:27.40) also worked seven furlongs at Hollywood on Sunday.

On Monday on Santa Anita's main track, Buckland Manor worked five furlongs in 58.60 seconds, the second-best time of 36 at the distance. Stanley Park (1:00.20) and Urban King (1:02.60) both worked five furlongs on the dirt at Hollywood Park on Monday.

Expected to be entered in the derby are Alberto Giacometti (Jose Valdivia Jr.), Bis Repetitas (Espinoza), Blue Blood Boot, Buckland Manor (Nakatani), Californian (Kent Desormeaux), Darinski (Flores), Fairly Ransom (Alex Solis), Fortune Writers (Ryan Fogelsonger), Kicken Kris (Castellano), Senor Swinger (Bailey), Sigint (Tyler Baze), Sign of The Wolf (Brice Blanc), Silver Tree, Stanley Park (Eric Saint-Martin), Sweet Return (Krone), Urban King (Valenzuela), and Willard Straight (Velazquez).

Avanzado tunes up in earnest for Underwood

Avanzado, who won the Grade 1 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting on Oct. 5, tuned up for Thursday's Grade 3, $100,000 Vernon O. Underwood Stakes by zipping five furlongs in 59.60 seconds on Sunday at Hollywood Park. The time equaled the third best of 34 at the distance.

Avanzado will have no more than seven rivals in the six-furlong Underwood. The field is expected to be Avanzado (Baze), Hasty Kris (Desormeaux), Omega Code (Valenzuela), Our New Recruit (Mike Smith), and Watchem Smokey (Krone), and possibly Fonz's, Ride and Shine, and Tough Game.

Because of the Thanksgiving Day holiday, first post time on Thursday is early, at 11 a.m.

Trainer Harte suffers heart attack

Trainer Michael Harte was in grave condition on Monday at Arcadia Methodist Hospital near Santa Anita, two days after suffering a massive heart attack.

Mike Puhich, another trainer and a friend of Harte's, said Harte was "in a coma" on Monday.

"He suffered a full cardiac arrest on Saturday," Puhich said. "They had to shock his heart to get it started again. It's a waiting game now, but it's not positive. They're waiting for results of a CAT scan. They don't know how much brain damage there might have been. It's been a real tough 48 hours."

Harte, a 57-year-old native of Ireland, lives in Sierra Madre, near Santa Anita. He has trained stakes winners such as Cool Chili, Dance Director, and Falkenham.

Trainers moving toward idea of detention barn

The board of directors of the California Thoroughbred Trainers association is "very split" on the idea of a detention barn, which several local trainers have been petitioning for, according to Ed Halpern, executive director of the CTT.

"We surveyed trainers six months ago, and it was about 9-1 against it, but in the past few months, more have supported it," Halpern said Monday. "My position is that everything else should be tried first. There's a lot of negatives to a detention barn."

Those negatives, according to Halpern, include the disruption of a horse's routine, increased labor costs for trainers, and the cost of the facility itself. "The major issue is, who's going to pay for it?" Halpern said.

Trainer Vladimir Cerin has been among those quarterbacking the idea of a detention barn. He did not return a call Monday seeking comment.

A presentation for increased security is expected to be made before the California Horse Racing Board at its Dec. 4 meeting, according to Mike Marten, a CHRB spokesman.

Marten said possible proposals from trainers include a detention barn, or designated stalls in each trainer's barn that have security cameras to monitor "in-today" racehorses. Marten has been spending increased time in the stable area at local tracks in recent weeks, and said Monday his sense is that there is "more support" for designated stalls with cameras than for a central detention barn.

Nakatani gets three-day suspension

Nakatani was given a three-day suspension as a result of his mount, Epicentre, being disqualified from victory in Saturday's Hollywood Turf Cup. After the race, Nakatani said stewards David Samuel, Tom Ward, and Jack Williams "must be blind."

His suspension begins Friday. The suspension does not prohibit Nakatani from riding in designated races, so he can still ride in Sunday's Japan Cup in Tokyo, as well as the Matriarch and Hollywood Derby later that day at Hollywood Park.

Nakatani, Espinoza, and Solis are all scheduled to ride in the Japan Cup, then fly home immediately and, because of crossing the international date line, arrive in time for Sunday's races at Hollywood Park.

* Irish Warrior, who finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Mile, tuned up for Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Citation Handicap by working five furlongs in 1:00.80 on the main track on Monday at Hollywood Park. Century City, the third-place finisher in the Breeders' Cup Mile, is also going in the Citation. He worked five furlongs on turf on Sunday at Hollywood in 1:02.60.

* The hunch bet of the day at Hollywood Park on Sunday was sixth-race winner Major Success. The 2-year-old colt is a son of Mazel Trick, who was owned by Audrey Skirball-Kenis, for whom Sunday's featured stakes race was named.