05/15/2006 12:00AM

Extra distance may help Lightning Hit


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - It may only be mid-May with two legs of the Triple Crown still to be contested, but the focus of the 3-year-old male division in California is shifting toward turf.

Sunday's main race at Hollywood Park is the $100,000 Will Rogers Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf. Wednesday, two optional claiming races for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on turf are the principal races on the eight-race program. They are preps for the Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap on June 25, the first of five turf stakes for 3-year-olds between now and Labor Day worth $100,000 or more.

Some of Wednesday's starters have already tried stakes, with mixed results.

In the fifth race, will try to improve on a third-place finish in the La Puente Stakes at Santa Anita on April 15. Two colts that finished behind him that day - Zann, who was fourth, and Global Genius, seventh - are among the seven entrants in the fifth race.

Lightning Hit made his U.S. debut in the one-mile La Puente, finishing two lengths behind Stratham, a probable starter in the Will Rogers. Lightning Hit was last of seven until the eighth pole and closed well. He appeared to run out of ground and should do better with a longer distance on Wednesday.

The pace should come from , who is making his first start against winners. Trained by Richard Mandella, Dixie Banker won a maiden race on the hillside course at Santa Anita on April 13, his first start of the year and his fifth career outing.

should not be far from the front. He beat maidens on turf at Santa Anita on March 26 and was beaten 2 1/4 lengths by Stratham in the La Puente.

The seventh race appears to be the weaker of the two divisions. While the field does include Keagan, the winner of the Turf Paradise Derby on the main track in February, none of the seven entrants has placed in a stakes on this circuit this year.

Five of the seven runners have started for a claiming price in their career; two are entered to be claimed for $80,000 - Keagan and Wee Jinky.

Full In makes his first start for trainer Doug O'Neill. Full In won a $40,000 claimer at Gulfstream Park on March 22. He was third in the Appleton Turf Juvenile at Calder last November.

The Five J's makes his 15th start. He was third in a similar field here on April 26.