06/27/2001 11:00PM

Few thrills at Gold Cup post position draw

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - With only five expected starters, there was little tension in the post position draw for Sunday's $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup.

A race with a small field and a two-furlong run to the first turn offers little chance for trouble in the early stages. Still, some trainers prefer certain posts, and Bob Baffert was content when Captain Steve, the likely favorite, drew post 5.

"I don't think the post matters, but I like being drawn outside," Baffert said.

The Gold Cup, run as the fifth race on Sunday's 11-race card, will have its smallest field since four started in 1999. From the rail, the others in the field are Power Wing, Aptitude, Skimming, and Futural.

Run over 1 1/4 miles, the Gold Cup will be Captain Steve's first start since he finished second to Guided Tour in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 16. Earlier in the year, he won the Donn Handicap and $6 million Dubai World Cup.

A 4-year-old, Captain Steve is trying to become the first horse to sweep Hollywood Park's three major dirt races, having won the

1999 Hollywood Futurity at 2 and the Swaps Stakes for 3-year-olds last summer.

Skimming, Futural, and Aptitude were the top three finishers in the Californian Stakes on June 10, and Power Wing is a claiming horse. Skimming and Aptitude will be coupled in the betting as an entry owned by Juddmonte Farms and trained by Bobby Frankel.

Outside of Captain Steve and Skimming, who won the Pacific Classic last summer, the Gold Cup has not drawn a strong field. Many of the circuit's top handicap horses are on the sidelines, or weeks away from being ready.

None of the starters from the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap in March are entered. Tiznow, the 2000 Horse of the Year, who won the Big Cap, is in light training following a back injury in April. Wooden Phone, the winner of the Strub Stakes in February, is off after having knee surgery to remove a bone chip.

Sky Jack, who won the California Cup and Native Diver handicaps last fall, is recovering from knee surgery and a recent bout of colic. Trainer Doug O'Neill is hoping he will return in August.

Early Pioneer, the upset winner of the 2000 Hollywood Gold Cup, is being pointed to the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on July 29, trainer Vladimir Cerin said.

Bel Air coming up strong

The Grade 2 Bel Air Handicap, run over 1 1/16 miles on July 7, will have a strong field. Expected to run are General Challenge, winner of the 2000 Santa Anita Handicap; Big Ten, who won last year's Californian Stakes; Freedom Crest, winner of this year's San Pasqual; and Out of Mind, who took the 2000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap.

Trainer Richard Mandella said that Out of Mind, who has not started since finishing fourth in last year's Hollywood Gold Cup, almost was ready for the Gold Cup.

"If I would have two mile works in him, I would have started," he said.

Caller One looking east

Caller One is entered for Sunday's $300,000 Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap, but there is no guarantee he will run.

Trainer Jim Chapman said he will wait until Sunday before deciding whether to run him in the Grade 2 race over seven furlongs. The winner of the $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai and the Los Angeles Handicap this year, Caller One is the

126-pound highweight for the Triple Bend.

"It's a big spread," Chapman said of the weights. "I'll talk it over with the owners. We'll have until Lasix time to decide."

Chapman is also considering the Tom Fool Stakes at Belmont Park on Wednesday, which is worth half the prize money of the Triple Bend.

Pie n Burger makes turf debut

Pie n Burger, who won an allowance race over seven furlongs by

4 1/4 lengths on May 5, is the likely favorite in Saturday's $70,000 Harry Henson Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf.

Run over 5 1/2 furlongs, the Henson marks Pie n Burger's first start on turf. A winner of 2 of 6 starts, he was third in the San Pedro Stakes at Santa Anita in his only other stakes appearance.

The Henson Stakes drew five, including Bills Paid, who was third in the Baldwin and San Miguel Stakes at Santa Anita, and Coil n Strike, who won an allowance race on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita in March.

Good horses working fast

Congaree, who will be a short-priced favorite to win the Swaps Stakes on July 15, worked six furlongs in 1:10.80 on Thursday at Santa Anita, the fastest of nine works at the distance.

"He really went nice," Baffert said.

Congaree, who won the Wood Memorial, has not started since finishing third in the Preakness Stakes on May 19.

Kona Gold, the champion sprinter of 2000, worked five furlongs in 59 seconds, staying on course for the Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup Handicap at Del Mar on July 22.

Budroyale, the runner-up in the 1999 Breeders' Cup Classic, moved closer to a comeback, going five furlongs in 1:01. Trainer Ted H. West said the San Diego Handicap is a possible comeback spot.