05/18/2004 11:00PM

High hopes resting on Bullistic

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Bullistic teased trainer John Shirreffs and owners Jerry and Ann Moss at times last year.

Sometimes, he ran as if he was on the verge of a breakthrough performance that would lead to a stakes victory. More often, he failed, finishing third in the Affirmed Handicap, fifth in the Swaps Stakes, and losing three allowance races.

Friday, makes his 4-year-old debut in a $47,000 allowance race over 6 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park, the start of a campaign that could quickly lead to a stakes start. Last winter, Bullistic underwent a minor throat surgery to aid his breathing.

"He covers the ground effortlessly," Shirreffs said. "We have a lot of hopes for him. Last year, we were disappointed that he wasn't finishing his races. He was big and very immature."

The sprint races may not be an ideal fit for Bullistic, Shirreffs said. Bullistic is winless in two sprints, finishing third and fourth. His lone victory in seven starts came by 7 1/2 lengths in a maiden race over 1 1/16 miles in April 2003.

"At 6 1/2 furlongs, I don't know if it's the right distance, but it's a good spot to start him," Shirreffs said.

The allowance race is the sixth race on an eight-race program that begins at 7:05 p.m.

The race will be the 3-year-old debut of , who scored an impressive maiden win last summer at Del Mar. Trained by Bob Baffert, Attack Alert has not raced since his win last July. In that race over 5 1/2 furlongs, Attack Alert finished three lengths in front of Cheiron, who won the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for California-bred 3-year-olds at Hollywood Park last month.

The allowance race has eight entrants, and Areyoutalkintome and Pepper Shaker deserve respect.

won an optional claimer for state-breds over 6 1/2 furlongs April 9 at Santa Anita and finished second in an allowance race against open company over 7 1/2 furlongs April 25.

Pepper Shaker, who is likely to contribute to the pace, finished second as the favorite in an optional claimer over 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita on April 10.

Bullistic will be at the back of the field early. A strong performance could lead to a start in the $250,000 Californian Stakes over 1 1/8 miles June 12.

"In relation to this year, we have to keep him as thin as possible, without carrying any extra weight," Shirreffs said. "We've trained him a lot harder than ever before."