06/12/2004 12:00AM

Even the Score decisive winner in Californian


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Last week, trainer Vladimir Cerin was undecided whether to run Even the Score in Saturday's $250,000 on dirt or the $350,000 Charles Whittingham Handicap on turf at Hollywood Park.

The decision to start in the Grade 2 Californian resulted in a decisive win, and put the 6-year-old horse on the verge of a unique milestone in Hollywood Park history. Having won the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap on May 8, Even the Score is likely to try for a sweep of the track's major races for older horses on dirt in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 10.

The milestone has been accomplished once, by Eleven Stitches in 1981.

In the Californian, Even the Score was sixth early, four lengths behind Ender's Shadow, who set an early pace of 23.56 and 46.66 seconds.

Even the Score was three wide on the first turn, and four-wide on the second turn. Ridden by David Flores, he reached a contending position on the final turn and won by 3 1/2 lengths. He was timed in 1:47.64 for 1 1/8 miles.

"We had no choice but to go wide," Cerin said. "He settled nicely and ran a nice race. He was a true professional."

Total Impact, third in the Mervyn LeRoy, finished second, two lengths in front of Nose the Trade in the field of eight.

Even the Score has won 9 of 28 starts and $661,629 for owner Ro Parra.