11/09/2005 12:00AM

Gloomy start for all-dirt meet

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Sharp Lisa won the Las Virgenes in February but has been off since April.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Hollywood Park swung into its 27-day Autumn Dirt Festival on Wednesday on a cold, wet, dreary day. Somehow, it all seemed, as trainer Tim Yakteen put it, "appropriate."

Trainers huddled against the rain Wednesday morning while watching horses work over a Hollywood Park main track that will get a workout of its own over the next month. With no grass racing because of a new course that failed to properly take root, all racing at this meet will be conducted on the main track. It was listed as wet-fast for the day's first race. Ironically, had grass racing been scheduled for Wednesday, it would have been washed away by the rain and transferred to the main track.

Overnight purses have been increased, but for those who had been pointing horses specifically for this meet's grass stakes, the weather reflected their mood.

"We were going go run Alinghi in the Matriarch," Humberto Ascanio, the Hollywood Park-based assistant to trainer Bobby Frankel, said Wednesday morning. "But what are you going to do? It's the same for everybody. I guess we'll sit back and wait for Santa Anita with her." Santa Anita opens Dec. 26.

Some trainers of grass runners are looking for spots out of town, like at Calder, while others decided to give their horses a freshening one race sooner than originally planned.

"I had nominated Conveyor's Angel to stakes at Golden Gate and here," trainer Chris Paasch said. "I didn't want to ship her to Golden Gate. She had a little foot issue. I just decided to stop and give her 45 to 60 days of freshening in Kentucky, let her foot grow, and come back in the spring."

At least one trainer, though, felt like he was at home.

"This is nice Seattle weather for opening day," said Grant Forster, who has decided to make Southern California his home this winter rather than Fair Grounds or Oaklawn Park, where he has been based in recent winters.

Hollywood Park hornblower Jay Cohen played "Hooray for Hollywood" before the familiar "First Call" to precede the day's first race, and then the theme song from "Welcome Back, Kotter," sung by John Sebastian, was played over the speaker system.

The meet's first race went to 7-5 favorite Hemet and jockey Martin Pedroza, who has had a sensational second half of the year. Pedroza was the leading rider at Fairplex, then was second to Garrett Gomez at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, which ended Sunday.

Hollywood's leading trainer, at least for one race, was Mark Glatt.

Imperialism looking at N.Y. again

A mile and a quarter was too long for Imperialism in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Six furlongs in the Breeders' Cup Sprint was too short. But the Cigar Mile, trainer Kristin Mulhall believes, is just right.

The Cigar Mile, run Nov. 26 at Aqueduct, is the spot Mulhall is eyeing with Imperialism, who had his first work since finishing eighth in the Breeders' Cup on Wednesday morning at Hollywood Park. He went a half-mile in 49.60 seconds on a track that was rated fast before the steady, soaking rain changed its status for the afternoon's races. If Imperialism goes back for that race, it will be his third start in New York in two months.

"I'd like to go to the Cigar Mile, but I have to talk it over with Steve," Mulhall said, referring to owner Steve Taub. "I don't know if that's where he wants to go.

"He came out of the Sprint fine. The distance was just too short. The perfect distance for him is seven furlongs, but I think a one-turn mile would be okay."

Sharp Lisa nearing return

Sharp Lisa, who won the Las Virgenes Stakes earlier this year at Santa Anita, worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 on Wednesday morning as she nears her first start since finishing fourth in the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park in April.

"If everything goes well, she should be ready to run in the next condition book," said her trainer, Doug O'Neill.

O'Neill said Sharp Lisa was given a lengthy rest to recover from a chipped bone in a hind ankle.

Your Tent or Mine may go in Prevue

Your Tent or Mine, a promising 2-year-old trained by Neil Drysdale, worked five furlongs in 1:01 on Wednesday morning. "We worked several horses, trying to beat the rain," said Drysdale's assistant, John O'Donoghue.

Your Tent or Mine, a winner at Del Mar of his lone start, is a possible starter in the Grade 3, $100,000 Hollywood Prevue Stakes on Nov. 19.

O'Donoghue said that Becrux, a tough-luck fifth in the Del Mar Derby, would move back to the main track for the $60,000-added Bien Bien Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Saturday. The Bien Bien originally was scheduled for one mile on turf.

"He was going to run there and then the Hollywood Derby," O'Donoghue said. The Hollywood Derby is one of the grass stakes that has been scrapped this year. "He ran well on dirt in Dubai," O'Donoghue said.

* For those keeping score at home, the stewards for this meet will be Darrel McHargue, Kim Sawyer, and Tom Ward. California Horse Racing Board executive director Ingrid Fermin has assigned a different group of stewards to every major meeting in Southern California this year. Sawyer is the only steward of the three who also worked at both Del Mar and Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting this fall.