04/22/2002 11:00PM

Hal's Hope bucking anti-favorite bias in Texas Mile

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GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - What do Skip Away, Real Quiet, Wooden Phone, Reality Road, and Forty Nine Carats all have in common? Each was a beaten favorite in the $300,000 Texas Mile at Lone Star Park, which will be run for the sixth time Saturday.

Hal's Hope, who arrived here from his Miami base Saturday, will be looking to become the first favorite to win the Grade 3 race, and comes into it in sharper form than most of his predecessors, having won his last two starts, including the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap.

"They tell me the favorite never wins this race," said Harold Rose, the 90-year-old owner, breeder, and trainer of Hal's Hope. "We have to try and break that precedent."

, a 5-year-old who has won nine races and $1,070,922, is in the midst of a career resurgence. He rose to prominence as a 3-year-old in 2000 by winning the Grade 1 Florida Derby, but struggled on the Triple Crown trail, and the experience knocked the previously consistent colt off form for much of the second half of his 3-year-old season.

Hal's Hope rebounded with two minor stakes wins at 4, but is at his best right now, having earned back-to-back Beyer Speed Figures of 109 for his wins in the Grade 3 Creme Fraiche and Gulfstream Park handicaps.

"I had originally figured that we would send him to stud next year, but he's doing so well we haven't made up our mind," said Rose. "I thought his last race was very good. He met some of the best handicap horses and he defeated them, and I have to feel that he is on his way to bigger and better things."

Rose said maturity has played a role in Hal's Hope's resurgence. The horse, who finished sixth in the Texas Mile last year, had never been a real good shipper, but handled his latest flight to Lone Star unusually well.

"Last time we shipped here, we had a tough time with him on the plane," said Rose. "This time, he shipped without any problems. I think he's mature now."

If all goes well Saturday, Rose will point Hal's Hope for the Grade 2, $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap on June 1.

Boots on Sunday may return to turf

Boots on Sunday, an impressive allowance winner over pacesetter Joyful Tune last Friday night, could make his next start in the $75,000 Ford Express over 6 1/2 furlongs May 4. Later this season, Boots on Sunday could return to racing on turf in the $100,000 Beck Auto Group Turf Sprint on May 27.

"The last time he ran on grass," said Boots on Sunday's trainer, Danny Pish, of a race last year, "he did beat Morluc in Houston, which leads us to believe he may even step up on the grass."

Pish was thrilled with the determination Boots on Sunday showed Friday. "I think he had the horse in front of him measured pretty good, but he also had a lot of work to do in a short period of time, and he beared down and caught him," said Pish. "He showed a lot of heart."

Boots on Sunday is also eligible for the $50,000 Carter McGregor for statebreds May 27.

Miss Ritz to go in Stonerside

Miss Ritz, who overcame a near-five-month layoff and troubled start to win the the $75,000 Wafare Farm Stakes last Saturday, is to make her next start in the $150,000 Stonerside Stakes over seven furlongs on May 25.

Miss Ritz stumbled badly at the start of the Wafare, but went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths. "I thought she ran an excellent race considering the fall and everything," said her trainer, Bob Young.