07/16/2003 11:00PM

Castling tries for repeat in Valkyr

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Castling has more unfinished races than victories in the last year, but trainer Bill Currin has not abandoned hope that her best days are ahead of her.

Saturday, Castling, 5, will attempt to defend her title in the $75,000 Valkyr Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares at Hollywood Park. Run over a mile on turf, the Valkyr is Castling's third start at the meeting. She was a troubled fifth behind Shalini in the Fran's Valentine Stakes on April 26 and was eased in a May 29 allowance race. Since then, she has worked brilliantly, with bullets in three of her last four workouts.

"I've made foolish mistakes about the horse," Currin said. "The filly is good, but you can't fight with her. You have to let her run her race. I expect her to run a big race.

"I have a better feel for this filly than I've ever had. She's very sound, even though some riders are suspicious of her."

Tyler Baze, who has ridden frequently for Currin in recent weeks, has the mount on Castling, who has six opponents.

The likely favorite is Shalini, who is having an outstanding meeting. Shalini won her second stakes of the year in the Fran's Valentine. She followed with a third in an allowance race against open company and was second against California-bred males in the Quicken Tree Stakes, run over 1 1/2 miles on turf June 15.

Shalini cuts back to a mile, which is not a concern for trainer Craig Dollase.

"I put two slow works in her," Dollase said. "She not a filly that carries a lot of weight."

Both Castling and Shalini are stalkers, and they will be chasing Icantgoforthat, who won the Survive Stakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 1 and has placed in two subsequent stakes. Icantgoforthat is trying a two-turn race on turf for the first time.

Multiple winners for Baze, Krone

Baze and Julie Krone were the riding stars at Hollywood Park on Wednesday, combining for five wins on the eight-race program.

Baze won three races, while Krone had a double, her first wins since returning from a back injury suffered in March.

Baze won the second race with Retirees Three ($8.40), the third with Elan ($5), and the sixth with Dad's Lessons ($20.20). The triple gave him 40 winners for the meeting and moved him into fourth place in the overall standings, well behind leading rider Patrick Valenzuela, who has won 76 races.

Baze trails Alex Solis by eight wins for third place. Although Solis is on vacation and is not riding this week, Baze will still have a difficult time riding eight winners in the final four days of the meeting.

Krone scored two wins on turf - on Hazen ($4.20) in the fifth race and No Kings ($5.40) in the seventh race. She returned to riding on July 10.

"The first couple of days, getting legged up is important," Krone said. "On Monday, after I worked horses, I knew I was back."

Krone was impressed with No Kings, who is trained by Ron McAnally. Stakes-placed last winter at Santa Anita, No Kings ended a seven-race losing streak Wednesday.

Sent off as the favorite in a four-horse field, No Kings stalked the pace to the final turn and emerged between pacesetters in early stretch to win by a half-length over Shezsospiritual.

"As that little spot opened up, she just took off," Krone said. "She was just waiting, like she was saying, 'Just tell me when.' "

Meet sees more small fields

There were six entries for Wednesday's seventh race, but Oneexcessivenite was scratched because of injury, and Varnished, the morning-line favorite, was scratched because of illness, according to racing officials.

The race marked the 14th four-horse field of the meeting, which began on April 23. Through Wednesday, there have been 51 five-horse fields.

Pleasantly Perfect, Sarava are back

Pleasantly Perfect and Sarava, two major stakes winners of 2002, are nearing returns after layoffs and have the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita as long-term goals.

Pleasantly Perfect, the winner of the Grade 2 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap last fall, is winless in two starts this year. He missed training time this spring because of an ankle injury. In his most recent start, Pleasantly Perfect finished fourth in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 1.

"He could run in the last part of Del Mar," trainer Richard Mandella said.

Mandella said that Kudos, the third-place finisher in the Hollywood Gold Cup last weekend, will be pointed for the Pacific Classic on Aug. 24.

Sarava has not started since winning the 2002 Belmont Stakes for trainer Kenneth McPeek. He has since been transferred to Bob Baffert, but has yet to start for him. Baffert is aiming Sarava for the $250,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 3 or an allowance race next weekend.

Baffert said that Senor Swinger, a multiple stakes winner who finished fourth as a heavy favorite in the $500,000 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs last Saturday, will start either in the $150,000 La Jolla Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on turf on Aug. 16, or the $300,000 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 6.

Horsemen choose new chairman

Ron Charles, who has campaigned such stakes winners as Abaginone, Champion Lodge, Jahafil, and Loveontheroad, has been elected chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, the state's official representative body for horsemen. The election took place during the organization's board of directors meeting on July 11.

Charles replaces Jack Owens, who had served as chairman since September 2001. Owens was re-elected to the board of directors along with owners John Amerman, Jon Kelly, Bob Lewis, and Mace Siegel. Among owner-trainers, Barbara Dutton, John Sadler, and Art Sherman have been elected to the board. The 15-member board also includes owners Ron Anson, Donna Arnold, Tom Bachman, Trudy McCaffery, Don Rego, and Don Valpredo.

* Reba's Gold, the winner of the Seabiscuit Handicap at Bay Meadows in late May, worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 at Hollywood Park on Thursday. Trained by Dan Hendricks, he is being pointed for the San Diego Handicap.