04/27/2003 11:00PM

Class-drop gelding has singular carryover appeal


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Forget about Empire Maker. One of the country's most closely scrutinized horses Wednesday will be a California-bred gelding racing for a $10,000 claiming price in the third at Hollywood Park.

A pick six carryover of $171,686 is up for grabs, and Smokindowntheroad will be favored to win the first leg of the series, race 3. Smokindowntheroad stands out in the six-furlong claimer, despite facing older winners after racing in his own age group this winter at Santa Anita.

Hollywood does not card races restricted to 4-year-olds, which explains why trainer Bill Spawr is dropping the gelding into a $10,000 claimer. Smokindowntheroad has earned a series of fast-track speed figures that are superior to those of his rivals, and budget-conscious pick six bettors will consider singling him despite the inside post. The Hollywood main track played fair opening week (four of 24 sprints won from the rail).

If Smokindowntheroad gets beaten, it will be his own fault - the two times he broke from the rail this year were his two worst races. Alternatives include Memofromthelady, a sharp northern California shipper; Shining Nuggets, in his second start back from a layoff; along with Mr. Reed and Nicole's Apollo.

In the second leg, race 4, Imperial King is the most likely winner. The 6-year-old won his third straight on April 9 at Bay Meadows and was claimed for $12,500 by trainer Mark Glatt. The enterprising leap into a $25,000 claimer suggests Imperial King remains in peak form. He will run seven furlongs against main foes Mr Freckles, a Hollywood specialist; Greek Authority, dropping off a claim; and Harbour Crossing.

In the third leg, race 5, second-time starter Montana Banana could be long gone racing six furlongs in a $50,000 maiden-claimer. He dueled through severe fractions first time out, held second, and is being bumped up in class by trainer Doug O'Neill, whose second-timers typically improve. Rivals include comebacker Morning Riser, front-runner Quick N Fancy, and American Anthem, the high-figure horse drawn on the rail.

In the fourth leg, race 6, Forty Pureza will try to go wire to wire in a $20,000 claimer for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. Claimed last start by trainer Mike Marlow off a dull sprint, Forty Pureza represents a familiar Marlow pattern - three of his last six winners were route to sprint. Forty Pureza adds blinkers, and will try to hold off Dream Day and Kate 'n Amy.

In the fifth leg, race 7, two European imports trained by Bobby Frankel make their U.S. debuts in a two-other-than turf sprint. Chiming and Pertuisane faced better overseas, and either is qualified to upset local runner Red Opal. The pace should be brutal, led by front-runners Oriana's Magic, Hadl, and Walts Wharf.

The final leg of the pick six is race 8. In the 4 1/2-furlong sprint for 2-year-old fillies, fast-working firsters She'sgotgoldfever, Grand View Girls and Wacky Patty appear capable of firing.