07/16/2002 12:00AM

Frankel: Give me a break

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - An absence from the races for nearly 21 months must have left Endless Summer rusty when he made his North American debut on June 23. When the gates opened, he stood there, before realizing the urgency of the task at hand.

Endless Summer rallied belatedly for third that day, and he has come back to work well since, leaving trainer Bobby Frankel confident that Endless Summer can run down the speedy Rocky Bar and capture Thursday's $51,000 feature race at Hollywood Park.

"If he breaks, he ought to have a good chance," Frankel said Tuesday morning at Hollywood Park. "He didn't break at all last time. He had to come from way out of it."

Endless Summer, now age 4, was second twice in Group 1 stakes races at age 2 in Europe, but never raced at 3. Frankel received him at the end of last year and said he has had to deal with "a lot of niggly things' with Endless Summer. "He's going good now," Frankel said.

He will have to be to catch the fleet Rocky Bar, who most recently finished third in the Kerlan Memorial on June 19. Under the optional-claiming conditions of the 5 1/2-furlong turf race, Rocky Bar is in for an $80,000 claiming price.

The pace should benefit Rocky Bar. Brian Lynch, who trains Winning Brief, said on Tuesday he was likely going to scratch his horse, whose speed would have compromised Rocky Bar's chances.

Two others appear to have strong chances.

Martel thrives in turf sprints, and he has done particularly well at Hollywood Park, where he has finished first or second in five of seven grass races. He has not raced since November, and has a brief work tab for his return, but should give a good account of himself, according to his trainer, Paddy Gallagher.

"He got stiff on me after his last race, so we gave him some R and R," Gallagher said. "He's only had four or five works, but he acts like a horse who doesn't need a lot of work. He keeps himself fit, even when he's not doing a lot."

Gallagher said he believes Martel is best sprinting, which is why he wanted to get a run into him at this meet. There are no turf sprints at Del Mar. "I'll probably have to try to stretch him out again at Del Mar," Gallagher said.

Lebontempsroulet, who drew the rail, will be making his first start in five months. This consistent sprinter has finished in the money six times in his last seven starts, including three victories.

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