09/30/2003 11:00PM

'Bullet' relishes hillside turf


ARCADIA, Calif. - Thunder Bullet was outstanding on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita earlier this year. A repeat of that form will make him competitive in Friday's sixth race at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.

In four starts on the hillside course from mid-January to mid-April, Thunder Bullet won three times and finished a close fourth in the Grade 3 San Simeon Handicap.

Friday's race, a $60,000 allowance, drew eight starters, including the undefeated Watchem Smokey, a six-time winner in the mid-South; Vicious Boy, a multiple stakes winner from Chile; Castor Troy, a French stakes winner; and Nuclear Debate, a millionaire.

None has the same experience on the hillside course as Thunder Bullet, who is trained by Jeff Mullins.

"You feel like you have an advantage because he likes the course," Mullins said.

After losing by two lengths to Speak in Passing in the San Simeon Handicap, Thunder Bullet, 4, was given a brief vacation. He returned to finish fourth in the Green Flash Handicap over five furlongs on turf at Del Mar on Aug. 20, losing to stablemate King Robyn.

Thunder Bullet rebounded with a victory in the $50,000 Aprisa Handicap over six furlongs at Fairplex Park on Sept. 17.

"He's better on the turf," Mullins said. "A lot of good turf horses run well at Pomona."

Thunder Billet is a stalker, a style that is perfect for the hillside course but was not effective on turf at Del Mar, where speed excelled.

The presence of Menacing Dennis will ensure a quick pace. Menacing Dennis won an allowance race over 5 1/2 furlongs on turf at Hollywood Park and was third in the Green Flash Handicap.

Watchem Smokey will be prominent early. Friday's allowance race marks his first start for owner Edmund Gann and trainer Bobby Frankel, and his turf debut. Watchem Smokey was campaigned by owner-trainer Cecil Borel when he made his last start, a victory in the minor Airline Stakes at Louisiana Downs on July 5.

Castor Troy won a minor stakes in France in September 2002. He makes his debut for trainer Julio Canani on Friday.