07/06/2007 12:00AM

Hard to knock Latin Rhythms

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - When a good horse starts at a bad price, sensible bettors wager against the underlay or pass the race entirely.

Latin Rhythms is a good horse. But when he stretches out Sunday at Hollywood Park in a first-level allowance for 3-year-olds, Latin Rhythms will start at a horribly short price.

Not that it bothers owners Mace and Samantha Siegel, or trainer Ron Ellis.

"I love the horse," Ellis said. "He's bred to run long. I've been impressed that he's been able to sprint. He's bred to run a mile and a half."

After only two starts, Latin Rhythms has generated a stir. Sired by King Cugat, Latin Rhythms followed a runner-up turf debut with a solid win at 6 1/2 furlongs on Cushion Track. He earned a 97 Beyer Figure and was flattered when runner-up I'm All Out and fifth-place Monterey Jazz returned to win.

But fast maiden sprint wins do not guarantee allowance route wins, and when Latin Rhythms runs 1 1/16 miles, six others will try to knock off the favorite.

Stormy Grant has won twice at the distance vs. Cal-breds; he is the main rival. Pointing Star has improved on Cushion Track; he finished second in a four-horse allowance last out. Buc the Spartan has room to improve; Celtic Dreamin is 3 for 3 sprinting; Stella Mark and Siempre Distante also were entered.

The lineup is not particularly strong, and the only reason the allowance is the race-8 feature is because the Robert K. Kerlan Memorial Handicap for older turf sprinters did not fill. Low odds or not, Latin Rhythms is in the right spot.

"I think this is a good time to try and stretch him out," Ellis said. "I think he's a horse that can go either way - turf or synthetic track."

Ellis, who is 15 for 46 at Hollywood, expects Latin Rhythms to improve the farther he goes.

"The talented ones, even if they want to run to run long, they can break their maiden sprinting," Ellis said.

The knock on Latin Rhythms, if it can be called that, is he did not switch leads in the lane of his maiden sprint. He cannot afford mistakes Sunday under jockey Jose Valdivia.

A live longshot is Siempre Distante, a half-brother to Grade 1 Polytrack winner Asi Siempre. Siempre Distante broke slowly and beat one horse in his U.S. debut for trainer John Sadler, but can improve while switching to Cushion Track.