06/16/2005 12:00AM

Continental Red may be in right spot

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Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Continental Red, although looking in good form of late, has not won since his victory in the 2003 Quicken Tree.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The Quicken Tree Stakes arrived at an ideal time for Continental Red in 2003, providing him with a comfortable spot against statebreds to end a three-race losing streak.

Saturday's $75,000 Quicken Tree Stakes at Hollywood Park can serve the same purpose for Continental Red.

A 9-year-old gelding, Continental Red, is winless in 20 starts since the 2003 Quicken Tree Stakes, a span that includes appearances in 19 stakes, 13 of them graded.

Despite the losing streak, Continental Red has not shown bad form in recent starts. He was second, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the Khaled Stakes for statebreds over 1 1/8 miles on turf on April 24, a distance arguably shorter than his best. Three weeks later, he finished fourth in the Grade 3 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap over 1 1/2 miles, losing by 2 3/4 lengths to Runaway Dancer.

Continental Red was 26-1 in the Murray, but may go favored in the Quicken Tree. He may be a 9-year-old, but he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 in his last start, and is the only member of the Quicken Tree field to break that plateau this year.

Owned by Wes and Sharon Fitzpatrick and trained by Tony Gonzalez, Continental Red has won 7 of 70 starts and $1,289,358. He is best as a closer and should have a pace to follow on Saturday. Ms Mintons Excess, winless since August, and Frankelstein, who won an allowance race here on May 5, are likely to be near the front.

There will be plenty of support for Perfect Mode and Running Free.

Perfect Mode is unbeaten in two starts on turf at this meeting, both for statebreds over a mile - a maiden race on May 19 and an allowance races on June 2.

Running Free, who was supplemented to the Quicken Tree for $1,500 when entries were taken on Thursday, won the Khaled Stakes in his last start. Trained by Kristin Mulhall for Southern Nevada Racing Stables, Running Free was third in the Crystal Water Handicap over a mile on turf at Santa Anita in March.

Neither Perfect Mode or Running Free have tried 1 1/2 miles. Continental Red has won 3 of 19 starts over 1 1/2 miles. He was fifth in the 2000 Quicken Tree, and third in the 2001 running. He did not start in the race in 2002, the year he was named California-bred Horse of the Year.

Seven-figure colt making race debut

What a Song, the $1.9 million sale-topper at the Barretts March sale of 2-year-olds in-training, makes his career debut in Saturday's second race over 5 1/2 furlongs.

Trained by Bob Baffert for Bob and Beverly Lewis, What a Song will go favored in a field of seven.

"He's very talented," Baffert said. "We feel good about him so far. He's a very fast horse. We're ready to start."

The colt, by Songandaprayer, has shown remarkable quickness in morning workouts at Santa Anita. On June 3, Songandaprayer worked five furlongs in 58.40 seconds from the gate, the fastest of 31 works at the distance. Last Saturday, he worked six furlongs in 1:10.80 from the gate.

"The work before he went too fast," Baffert said of the June 3 work. "The last time we got him to work behind a horse. He's learning to relax a little.

"We're going to start running some of these 2-year-olds. He's one of many nice ones that Bob Lewis has that are getting ready."

The field includes three other first-time starters - Bengal Lore, Ormazd, and Stevie Wonderboy.

Of the colts that have started, Via Rodeo finished third in a maiden race on May 29 behind the highly-rated Corazondelcampeon.

Diplomat Lady to stretch out at Del Mar

Via Rodeo is trained by Christopher Paasch, who has a promising 2-year-old filly in Diplomat Lady. She won her career debut in a $45,000 maiden race over 5 1/2 furlongs in Wednesday's first race.

Ridden by Rene Douglas, Diplomat Lady ($4.40) finished a nose in front of Tiger on the Loose. There was an inquiry into a bumping incident between the two at the top of the stretch, but there was no change to the order of finish.

Purchased for $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton February sale of 2-year-olds in-training earlier this year, Diplomat Lady is owned by Charlie Cono. The filly, who is by Forestry, will not start again until Del Mar, Paasch said.

Paasch expects Diplomat Lady to be effective at longer distances, and is hopeful she will develop into a top-class filly.

"She's definitely not just a sprinter," he said. "Galloping out, she was tremendous. That's the shortest race she'll run."

Earthquake hits during race

An earthquake that registered 4.9 on the Richter Scale was felt strongly at Hollywood Park during the running of Thursday's second race. The first motion was detected when the field reached the backstretch, and it continued until the final turn.

The earthquake was centered in Yucaipa, Calif., east of Los Angeles, and near Palm Springs.

During the running of the race, the track's television camera bobbled noticeably.

"We are in the midst of an earthquake here in Southern California," track announcer Vic Stauffer said during the race. "By the way, folks, I love you all and I want you to know that horse racing was my first love."

When Dark Beauty and Pleasant Thunder finished a nose apart, at which point the shaking had largely ended, Stauffer concluded with, "Dark Beauty and Pleasant Thunder come to the wire in a shaker."

Valenzuela to ride in Queen's Plate

Patrick Valenzuela will miss next Sunday's program at Hollywood Park to ride Wild Desert in the Queen's Plate at Woodbine. Valenzuela was aboard Wild Desert when the colt finished eighth in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in April.

Through Wednesday, Valenzuela had 10 wins from 39 mounts. He missed approximately a month because of a knee injury and a concussion suffered in a one-horse spill on May 8.