04/19/2005 11:00PM

Bushwacker fast but wacky

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Sunland Park
Cee's Irish, winning the Sunland Park Oaks, is one of seven horses trainer Doug O'Neill expects to run on Sunday's California Gold Rush program.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Bush-whacker was one of the fastest 2-year-olds in California last fall, but his recent form is a puzzle. After earning a 94 Beyer Speed Figure finishing second to Declan's Moon in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue, Bushwhacker ran poorly in his next three.

What is Bushwacker's problem?

"I think it's right here," owner-trainer Bill Currin said, pointing to his head.

If Bushwhacker's issues are merely psychological, the speedster could wire the field Friday night in the $75,000-added Harry Henson Stakes at Hollywood Park.

"He's fast as a bullet," Currin said, adding that "I've done every precautionary thing" for the Henson.

That includes a nuclear scan, chiropractic treatment, glue-on shoes, and new jockey Jose Valdivia working him five days ago. Bushwhacker will be running at his home track for the first time since fall, and bettors looking for an upset would be wise to not throw out the colt. Currin said that Bushwhacker has not been getting hot in morning workouts since his shoes were changed.

Currin, whose California-bred Memorette will try to upset the Kentucky Oaks two weeks from now, said his older handicap runner Outta Here will aim toward the Hollywood Gold Cup, and he has high hopes for the upcoming debut of Maximum Heat and 2-year-old Beshart.

High Standards tries turf

What do you do with the Califor-nia-bred High Standards in the Henson on Friday night? A bettor might consider him vulnerable because he has never raced or trained on turf. Owner John Harris, however, already has the Carla Gaines-trained Lucky J.H. aiming for the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes on Sunday, and as High Standards's trainer, Marty Jones, said, "he kind of wants to keep them apart."

High Standards has won all four starts, including two stakes at Santa Anita, but, Jones said, "he's never run on turf, so it's a whole new ballgame against horses that have run on turf. We'll find out."

Laura's Lucky Boy nicked up

The Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland on April 15 was a tough battle for Laura's Lucky Boy. Trainer Richard Mandella said Laura's Lucky Boy will be hard-pressed to make the Shoemaker Mile on May 30.

"He got cut up behind, tore both his quarters off, and raked him down his legs," Mandella said. "It might be two or three weeks to heal. It will set him back a little bit."

Laura's Lucky Boy won the Grade 3 Will Rogers Handicap on the Hollywood Park turf course last summer, and has won 4 of 11 overall. Mandella said he will have 16 horses stabled at Hollywood, with his main string staying at Santa Anita. Among the 2-year-olds who could start later in the spring-summer meet are one sired by Mandella-trained stakes winner Dixie Union who is out of his stakes-class sprinter Separata, and a half to Halfbridled sired by Pulpit. Mandella said his 2-year-olds are at least a month away from starting.

O'Neill loaded for Gold Rush

Trainer Doug O'Neill, whose stable set a single-season record at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting with 54 winners, may have a quick start to the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting.

On Sunday's $1.3 million California Gold Rush program for statebreds, O'Neill expects to have seven starters in the day's six major stakes. The team is led by Thor's Echo in the Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-olds and Cee's Irish in the $200,000 Melair Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Thor's Echo won the WinStar Derby at Sunland Park in New Mexico on April 2. The WinStar Derby was run over 1 1/8 miles, the same distance as the Snow Chief.

Sunland Park favored speed that day, which gives O'Neill concern about trying Thor's Echo over 1 1/8 miles over a Hollywood Park track that could prove to be more testing.

O'Neill is hopeful that jockey Corey Nakatani can save the front-runner Thor's Echo from early exertion.

"It's definitely a concern," he said of the distance. "Even when he broke his maiden, he showed he has an explosive kick. He can relax a little bit. If Corey can make it a three- or four-furlong run, that will help."

Cee's Irish and Unusual Spring will represent the barn in the Melair Stakes. Cee's Irish won the Sunland Park Oaks on March 2. O'Neill said he is taking a gamble with Unusual Spring. "She's won on the turf, and if she can translate her turf races to the dirt, she should be tough," he said.

O'Neill does not have any starters in two $150,000 races for fillies and mares - the B. Thoughtful Stakes on the main track or the Fran's Valentine Stakes on turf.

The B. Thoughtful Stakes is led by two Grade 1 winners - Alphabet Kisses, who won the La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita last December, and Dream of Summer, who won the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 9.

In the $150,000 Khaled Stakes on turf, O'Neill starts At Dawn, who will be a live longshot, he said.

"He's a sneaky one," O'Neill said. "He's running really good numbers."

In the $150,000 Tiznow Stakes over 7 1/2 furlongs, O'Neill starts Areyoutalkintome, Grand Appoint-ment and Lava Man. Cyber Slew will miss the race after he was found to have a bone chip in an ankle, O'Neill said.

* Santa Margarita Handicap winner Tarlow is headed for Kentucky, where she will run on Kentucky Oaks Day in the Grade 2 Louisville Breeders' Cup at 1 1/16 miles. Tarlow's trainer, John Shirreffs, said that Hollywood Story will stay in California to run May 7 in the Grade 3 Hawthorne Handicap.

* Jockey David Flores was scheduled to see his doctor on Wednesday, and could be cleared to ride as early as this weekend, according to his agent, Scotty McClellan. Flores has been sidelined since Feb. 26 with an elbow injury.

* Shadow of Illinois won the closing-day stakes at Santa Anita on Monday, taking the $107,000 San Simeon Handicap by a length. Shadow of Illinois ($16.60), ridden by Mark Guidry, defeated 5-2 favorite Geronimo, with Golden Arrow in third in the about 6 1/2-furlong turf race. He covered the distance in 1:12.62. The victory was the first in a Santa Anita stakes for trainer Anthony Saavedra.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen