08/17/2002 12:00AM

D'wildcat gives the grass a try

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Three consecutive losses in major stakes have damaged the reputation of D'wildcat, who was expected to be a leading sprinter this year.

Since being promoted from second to first in the Churchill Downs Handicap on the Kentucky Derby undercard following the disqualification of Snow Ridge, D'wildcat has lost the Met Mile at Belmont Park, Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park, and Bing Crosby Handicap at Del Mar.

On Monday, D'wildcat makes his turf debut in a $68,000 allowance race over a mile at Del Mar.

"I don't think the surface will be an issue," trainer Bob Hess said. "If he's going to compete at the level we want him to be, it will be on the turf. We know he has a lot of ability, but we haven't seen it on dirt."

The 4-year-old D'wildcat has raced at a mile only once, finishing ninth in the Met Mile in May.

On Monday, D'wildcat faces four others, including Zanapour, the winner of an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles on turf here July 27.

Trained by Julio Canani, Zanapour will be ridden by Corey Nakatani and will come from behind.

The win on July 27 was Zanapour's first in six starts in this country. He was stakes-placed in France last year.

Golden General, Gallant, and Sir Alfred also start.

Golden General makes his first start since finishing eighth in the Crystal Water Handicap at Santa Anita last March. Gallant won two turf sprints at Santa Anita earlier this year. He could be close to the pace. Sir Alfred is winless in nine starts, dating back to the Grade 3 Ascot Handicap at Bay Meadows in June 2001. He was fifth in an allowance race on Aug. 5, his first start for trainer Bruce Headley.

D'wildcat's sprint speed could leave him in front, or tracking Gallant.

"I think he'll be very tactical," Hess said.

In the Triple Bend, D'wildcat fought for the lead, but faded through the final furlong to finish three lengths behind Disturbingthe-peace. In the Bing Crosby, D'wildcat never made the lead and finished sixth.

"He's been frustrating," Hess said. "All that being said, he's worked well on the turf."

D'wildcat starts in the seventh race on an eight-race program. In the second race, Easy Grades, who finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby, will attempt to win for the second time in a $60,000 allowance race over a mile.

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