12/06/2004 12:00AM

Burke building up his name


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Don Burke II has three horses in his stable at Hollywood Park. Some trainers start that many horses in a single race.

For a trainer with a tiny stable, Burke has been something of an overachiever. In 2002, his stable was led by Falcon Flight, who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Arlington Park. Saturday at Hollywood Park, Burke scored the biggest win of his career when Pellegrino pulled an upset in the $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup.

"Hopefully this will put me on the map," Burke said.

Burke, 38, worked as a groom for Charlie Whittingham and as an assistant to Jeremy Noseda and Ben Cecil before going out on his own three years ago. He has never had a large stable. This year, all three of his horses are owned by London financier Gary Tanaka, better known as the owner of top sprinter Pico Central, who is trained by Paulo Lobo.

Tanaka purchased Pellegrino at Burke's insistence in 2003 after a 2002 campaign that included a second in the Argentine Derby and a third in the prestigious Carlos Pellegrini Stakes in Argentina.

Pellegrino was something of a disappointment until this fall, winning two allowance races in his first seven starts. In October, he finished second in the Grade 3 Carleton Burke Handicap, which Burke saw as an ideal prep to the Grade 1 Turf Cup.

"His last race was really, really good," Burke said. "He just didn't come along as quickly as we would have liked. I felt we would be tough in this race."

Pellegrino ($22.40) rallied from seventh to win the Turf Cup by a head over the mare Megahertz. Better Talk Now, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf at Lone Star Park in October, finished sixth as the even-money favorite.

Burke has set his sights on the $1.8 million Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Hong Kong in April for Pellegrino. "If everything stays all right, we'll go to Hong Kong," he said. "I think we have a unique opportunity to run there."

The importance of winning the Grade 1 Turf Cup was not lost on Burke.

Falcon Flight earned $290,400 for his third behind High Chaparral in the 2002 BC Turf, nearly double the $150,000 that Pellegrino earned in the Hollywood Turf Cup. But Saturday's race marked Burke's first win at the highest level.

"Where I've come from, it's really sweet," he said. "I didn't appreciate Falcon Flight, but I loved the horse. You have to enjoy these things a little more."

Azeri off until February

Azeri, the two-time champion, will not race again until February and will be bred to A.P. Indy or Storm Cat in the spring, owner Michael Paulson said over the weekend.

After Azeri was declared from consideration from the Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs in late November, Sunday's $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood Park became a possibility.

But Paulson said she will pass the Bayakoa in favor of the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb. 13. Azeri was not nominated to the Bayakoa. She remains at Churchill Downs with trainer D. Wayne Lukas but will be sent to California in coming days.

"We're resting her right now," Paulson said. "We'll take it one race at a time, possibly give her two or three starts. We'll probably breed her in April and have a March foal. That's the current plan, but it's subject to change."

The Bayakoa is run over 1 1/16 miles on the main track. The top contenders include A.P. Adventure, Keys to the Heart, Miss Loren, and Royally Chosen. A.P. Adventure, 3, won the Las Virgenes Stakes in February but has not started since finishing sixth in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs last April.

Sweet Catomine to Santa Ysabel

Sweet Catomine, the nation's top 2-year-old filly, is being pointed for the $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes at 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-old fillies Jan. 9, trainer Marty Wygod said.

Unraced since winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Lone Star Park on Oct. 3, Sweet Catomine had been mentioned as possible for the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes on Dec. 19. Wygod said he would prefer to start Revealed, the winner of a maiden race in her career debut Nov. 21, in the Starlet.

Sweet Catomine worked last week at Santa Anita, but missed a workout Sunday because of wet weather. Wygod cautioned that too much could be read into her recent workout.

"This is the time of year that she would have started back, anyway," he said. "I would think the more probable race is the Santa Ysabel. I still believe I'll win the Starlet. Revealed is a very good filly."

Supah Blitz eyes Sunshine Millions

Supah Blitz, who won the $200,000 Charles Rose Handicap at Calder on Nov. 13, will head back to Florida next month for the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park if he runs well in Saturday's $100,000 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park.

The timing of the Grade 3 Native Diver is ideal, trainer Doug O'Neill said, even though the purse is lower than in his recent races.

"This will be a month from his last start," O'Neill said. "It will be a good middle race from the last one to the Sunshine Millions."

The Native Diver is run over 1 1/8 miles and will not be an easy spot. The probable starters include Dynever, who finished eighth in the Breeders' Cup Classic in October; Truly a Judge, who won an optional claimer here on Nov. 18; Calkins Road, the winner of the Joseph Grace Handicap at the Sonoma County Fair in August; Go Bob, who was imported from Argentina earlier this year; and Tizbud, who won the 2003 California Cup Classic.

Supah Blitz, 4, joined O'Neill's stable after being purchased privately in late August. In three starts, he has won two stakes, including the Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap. Supah Blitz finished third in the Grade 2 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap. A win in the Native Diver would put him past $1 million in career earnings.

Scratches lead to small field

Sunday's eighth race was reduced from six starters to four after the race was moved from turf to dirt because of wet weather and lost another runner in the paddock after owner Michael Tabor refused to start Salford City.

According to trainer Patrick Biancone, Tabor insisted that Salford City be withdrawn after he watched Mr Charlie D break down in the preceding race. Salford City was saddled when he was withdrawn.

Originally scheduled for a mile on turf, the race was run on a wet-fast main track at 1 1/16 miles.

"The owner is the boss, and if he doesn't feel good, you don't run," Biancone said.

We All Love Aleyna ($4.80) outran two opponents in the $41,160 allowance race.

Mr Charlie D suffered an injury to his right hind leg and was euthanized, according to track stewards.

Gulfstream meet next for Kela

Kela, the runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Sprint who finished fourth in Sunday's Vernon Underwood Stakes as the favorite, will make his next start at the Gulfstream Park meeting.

Kela, sent off as the 3-2 favorite in the Underwood, finished five lengths behind the winner, Taste of Paradise.

Kela was supplemented to the Grade 3 Underwood for $2,000. He earned $6,000 for owner Jay Manoogian.

"I had no excuse," trainer Mike Mitchell said. "Speed held. I know he needs more distance."

* Yes, there were patches of snow visible on the infield at Hollywood Park on Saturday and Sunday. But it did not come from the sky.

The track conducted its annual Christmastime promotion for children on Saturday morning and trucked in tons of snow. Because of a cold, wet day Sunday, a few patches of snow remained through the day.