12/21/2002 1:00AM

With Dayjur off turf, Echo Eddie's the one


PHOENIX - For a while, Echo Eddie was little more than a blip on the radar screen. But he continued to achieve and by last spring everyone knew this Darrell Vienna-trained 5-year-old gelding could run.

In fact, Echo Eddie did so well he earned a trip to Dubai for the Grade 1 Golden Shaheen, against such top sprinters as Caller One and Xtra Heat. He beat Xtra Heat, and just failed in a duel with Caller One.

Sunday, the multiple-stakes-winning Echo Eddie will make his first start in five months in the $70,000-added Dayjur Handicap. The 5 1/2-furlong race, which has been taken off the turf, is on the last day of the Hollywood autumn meet. Santa Anita opens Thursday.

The switch from the turf to the main track will be fine for Echo Eddie. While he certainly likes turf, he might be even more comfortable on dirt, and he's already shown a liking for wet tracks.

In three wet-track starts, Echo Eddie has two wins and a second.

Echo Eddie is the Dayjur's probable starting highweight under 119 pounds. He last started on July 13 in the Smile Stakes at Calder, finishing second to Orientate.

"After that, he had a slight setback with a quarter crack," Vienna said.

Echo Eddie was put up for sale at the David Milch dispersal at Keeneland in November but was bought back for $225,000.

Echo Eddie ran third in the 2000 Dayjur, behind Texas Glitter and Full Moon Madness. Texas Glitter recently won the Hollywood Turf Express on the Hollywood turf course.

As runner-up to Orientate at Calder, Echo Eddie looks good because Orientate went on to win the Grade 2 Vanderbilt and Grade 1 Forego and Breeders' Cup Sprint on his way most likely to an Eclipse Award as the 2002 sprint champion.

Competition is expected from Rocky Bar, who led most of the way before finishing second to Texas Glitter in the Hollywood Turf Express Handicap here Nov. 29.

Still, Echo Eddie figures best.

Castle Gandolfo: Malibu upsetter?

He got a shot at the 2002 Kentucky Derby but finished a non-threatening 12th. On Thursday, Castle Gandolfo runs in Santa Anita's Grade 1 Malibu with much in his favor, including likely a decent price.

Craig Dollase now trains Castle Gandolfo, who was once in the powerful Aidan O'Brien stable. After racing on turf early in his career, he was pointed for the Derby. He beaten 17 lengths that day, but you can forgive that effort because he was being asked to do a lot, including racing in the States for the first time. After the Derby, Castle Gandolfo came back to finish sixth in the Grade 1 French Derby, then third in a listed stakes at the Curragh in September.

In recent months he was acquired by Paul Reddam, the owner who did so well with Swept Overboard and with another Euro transplant, Momentum. Reddam also owns Elloluv, who scored a 30-1 upset over Composure in the Grade 1 Starlet at Hollywood last weekend.

Dollase originally said Castle Gandolfo might go in the Hollywood Derby on turf, but in the week leading up to that race he changed his mind, and has taken the extra four weeks to prepare Castle Gandolfo for the Malibu. A strong, steady stream of drills indicate that Castle Gandolfo has adapted to the local surroundings and feels comfortable with the dirt surface here. Before the Derby he won on dirt at Lingfield.

The favorite likely will be Sunday Break, the Neil Drysdale-trained 3-year-old who ran a close third in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial behind Buddha and Medaglia d'Oro. Sunday Break then won the Grade 2 Peter Pan and was third in the Belmont Stakes, beaten 10 lengths by Sarava and Medaglia d'Oro. Ailments have prevented Sunday Break from seeing action since, but Drysdale said in the fall that the Malibu was his target all along.

Century City, who gave Rock of Gibraltar a scare in Europe this spring but who recently disappointed as the favorite in the Hollywood Derby, is making the switch to dirt for trainer Beau Greely. Speedsters American System, Total Limit, and Olmodavor help make the Malibu field deep and interesting.

The depth and quality of the field ought to boost the price of Castle Gandolfo. Dollase is looking for potentially a big year from him. This is the launch point, and getting on the bandwagon early, at 6-1 or so, might well be the way to go.