10/31/2003 1:00AM

Fourth time charm for Grey Memo?

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Grey Memo has become a fixture in the $250,000 California Cup Classic at Santa Anita, having started in the race for the last three years.

Unfortunately for the partnership that owns the 6-year-old Grey Memo and for trainer Warren Stute, the annual appearances have so far ended in frustration.

Grey Memo was sixth in the Classic in 2000 and 2001, and a troubled fourth last year. He returns in the Classic next Saturday, hoping to end a brutal streak of losses at Santa Anita.

Grey Memo has won 8 of 48 starts and $1,718,059, but has only one victory in 18 starts at Santa Anita.

Grey Memo had his best season in 2002, winning the Godolphin Mile in Dubai and the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar. In the 2002 Classic, he was stuck in traffic in early stretch and again just past the eighth pole yet was beaten by only two lengths by Calkins Road.

"He was unlucky last year but that's part of the business," Stute said.

This year, Grey Memo was a fast-closing third in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park in January and second in the Godolphin Mile in March. After returning from a break caused by a quarter crack, he finished third in the Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap at a mile on Sept. 1.

In his last start, Grey Memo ran seventh in the Grade 2 Goodwood Handicap on Oct. 4, finishing nine lengths behind Pleasantly Perfect, who returned to win the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 25.

"He never made a run," Stute said of Grey Memo in the Goodwood. "It was a tough race. I was kind of disappointed, but he seems fine. I'm happy with the way he's training for this race."

Grey Memo is a closer who often drops 10 or 15 lengths off the pace before launching a late rally. It worked in the three-furlong stretch in Dubai, but has not been as effective at Santa Anita.

"Sometimes he drops almost hopelessly out of it," Stute said.

In the Classic, Grey Memo will be opposed by Continental Red, Hot Market, Kedington, Mr. Joe C, Sky Jack, and Tizbud.

Hot Market has shown speed throughout his career, but had a dreadful trip in the 2002 Classic. He reared at the start and rallied wide to finish fifth. Following that race, Hot Market won the On Trust Handicap at Hollywood Park and finished third in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap before going out of training with an injury.

Hot Market is nominated for the California Cup Sprint at six furlongs, but is more likely to run in the Classic, trainer Craig Lewis said.

Several old-timers will run again

The Classic is the main race on the 10-race California Cup program, which will be run for the 13th time. The event features several older horses and geldings who were successful in years past.

Irisheyesareflying, the winner of the 2001 Classic, is nominated for the Classic and the $175,000 Mile, run on turf. Trained by John Dolan, Irisheyesareflying worked six furlongs from the gate in 1:13 on Friday.

If Irisheyesareflying starts in the Mile, he will be opposed by Spinelessjellyfish, a 7-year-old who has been second in the last two runnings, and Native Desert, a 10-year-old who won the race in 1999 and 2001.

Another 10-year-old, Men's Exclusive, will start in the $150,000 Sprint against Full Moon Madness, an 8-year-old who won the 2000 running.

Cee's Elegance, a 6-year-old mare who has won three stakes in the last year, will start in the $150,000 Matron, run at 1 1/16 miles on turf for fillies and mares.

In other stakes, Grant Marty a Wish, Icantgoforthat, and Roberto's Mango are leading contenders in the $150,000 Distaff at about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course. The $125,000 Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles is led by House of Fortune, who won the seven-furlong Cover Gal Stakes on Oct. 1.

P Town John, the winner of the Beau Brummel Stakes at Fairplex Park and the runner-up in the Cavonnier Stakes on Oct. 1, is a top contender for the $125,000 Juvenile. The race will not include Race for Glory, the winner of the Cavonnier Stakes, who finished ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Gill will get stalls at Hollywood

Owner Michael Gill and trainer Nick Canani have been granted stalls at Hollywood Park for the fall meeting, which runs from Nov. 11 to Dec. 21. The decision was finalized on Friday after Hollywood Park management consulted with Tom Meeker, the chief executive officer of parent company Churchill Downs, Inc.

Gill, who leads the nation's owners in wins, claimed 10 horses at Santa Anita from Oct. 24 through Thursday. He has been the subject of controversy in the last year for his aggressive claiming style and has been denied stalls at some racetracks.

Canani said that Gill intends to ship horses to California this winter and that the stable will not be sending horses to Fair Grounds in New Orleans as originally planned.

The presence of an active owner such as Gill could help to ease an alarming horse shortage in Southern California. Sunday at Santa Anita, the Hidden Light Stakes for 2-year-old fillies failed to fill and only 63 horses are entered for the nine-race program. The largest fields are the fifth and seventh races, with nine entrants.

Special Ring exits Mile with injury

Special Ring, the winner of the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar in July, has been turned out for two months after suffering a pulled muscle in the Breeders' Cup Mile, said Julio Canani, who trains him.

Canani said the injury occurred above Special Ring's left knee. He suspects it occurred when Special Ring was checked by jockey David Flores while racing in traffic in the stretch. Special Ring finished eighth, 5 1/2 lengths behind race winner Six Perfections.