04/14/2004 12:00AM

Buddy Gil looks to put failures in past


ARCADIA, Calif. - Buddy Gil was expected to be an important factor in the handicap division at the Santa Anita meeting, which ends Sunday.

Instead, he was well beaten in the Malibu Stakes, Strub Stakes, and Santa Anita Handicap.

Friday, Buddy Gil returns in a $65,000 allowance race over a mile, a race that trainer Jeff Mullins says he hopes will revive Buddy Gil's career. The money allowance is the third race on a nine-race program that begins at 3 p.m.

, 4, will be ridden for the first time by Alex Solis, who replaces Gary Stevens. Stevens is currently riding in France. In 2003, Buddy Gil won the San Felipe and the Santa Anita Derby and was sixth in the Kentucky Derby with Stevens riding.

Buddy Gil faces four opponents Friday - Royal Place, who was seventh in the Santa Anita Handicap; Crisantemo, a stakes winner in Chile; Fly to the Wire, who was fifth in the Tokyo City Handicap on March 13; and Touch the Wire, the winner of an optional claimer March 6.

In the Santa Anita Handicap over 1 1/4 miles, Buddy Gil finished 12 1/2 lengths behind the winner, Southern Image, fading in the final quarter-mile. It was his best race of the meeting, following a ninth in the Malibu and a 10th in the Strub.

"His first two races were horrible, and he didn't get anything out of them," Mullins said. "The mile and a quarter race was like his first race back. I'm throwing all three races out."

Royal Place, who won two allowance races at a mile here in the first month of the meeting, will set the pace.

Touch the Wire is a closer who has won two of his last four starts. He is trained by Craig Dollase.

Touch the Wire was a game third in the San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes here Jan. 10, but only ninth in the Sunshine Millions Classic on Jan. 24. He won on March 6, a race that was flattered when runner-up Beau Soleil returned to win an optional claimer April 3.

Through Sunday, Mullins had a one-race lead over Doug O'Neill in the trainers' standings, 40-39.

O'Neill has an excellent chance to win Friday's eighth race with Amiable Amy, who has won two of her last three starts. Friday's one-mile race for fillies and mares is the longest of her six-race career.

"We've been dying to stretch her out, and we thought this would be a good opportunity," O'Neill said.