05/10/2004 11:00PM

Can't bet on him, can't bet against him


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - When he races 1 1/16 miles on turf in the seventh-race feature Thursday at Hollywood Park, Captain Squire will be a lot less useful to bettors than he would have been one day earlier.

A front-runner, will be strongly favored Thursday, for all the right reasons. He is racing in peak form, fits at the classified allowance level, his speed figures are suitable, and he should be loose on the lead. Captain Squire's attributes are obvious, and will be reflected by odds.

The short price would be less concern with another pick six carryover to gun for. And if Captain Squire's race had been one day earlier, bettors may have structured a pick six ticket around him. It is possible, of course, the pick six will carry over again, into Thursday. If not, Captain Squire represents the type of horse who drives horseplayers silly.

His odds to win will be so low it is tough to back him with serious money, yet his high likelihood of success make it futile to wager against him. Captain Squire is no Smarty Jones, but he won't have to be. The race on Thursday is open to horses who have not won at a mile or over in 2004. Last out in the Grade 2 San Francisco Breeders' Cup Handicap at a mile, Captain Squire ran second, beaten only three-quarters of a length.

The effort marks the Jeff Mullins-trained Captain Squire as the horse to beat Thursday, even though 1 1/16 miles may be beyond his preferred distance. Six of the last 11 Hollywood turf races at 1 1/16 miles, however, have been won gate to wire.

The classified allowance originally was scheduled for 1 1/8 miles, but the distance was shortened in order to fill the race. Captain Squire, a graded-stakes-winning sprinter, will be loose on the lead under Alex Solis, and should be long gone. A 5-year-old gelding, Captain Squire has won six races and $818,125 from 21 starts.

The main threat could be , though he is racing above his eligibility conditions. Trained by Neil Drysdale, King of Happiness exits a key race. He was beaten three-quarters of a length by Leroidesanimaux, who returned to win a Grade 3.

Though he is eligible for a three-other-than, King of Happiness may fit against classified company. He has won 3 of 13, and consistently finishes more strongly than Captain Squire. Kent Desormeaux rides King of Happiness.