05/19/2005 12:00AM

High Standards returns to dirt

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - With a failed turf experiment behind him, High Standards returns to doing what he does best in Saturday's $150,000 Laz Barrera Memorial Stakes at Hollywood Park - sprinting on the main track.

is unbeaten in four starts on the main track, including two stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita earlier this year - the Baldwin Stakes, which was switched from turf to dirt on March 5, and the San Pedro Stakes on March 26.

And High Standards has shown a liking for Hollywood Park, where he is based. Trained by Marty Jones, High Standards made his debut here last November, winning a $50,000 claiming race for maidens by 3 1/2 lengths.

The return to sprinting on dirt is a comfort to Jones.

"This is right down his alley," Jones said. "I think he's better on the dirt."

Owned by Harris Farms, High Standards encountered his lone loss in the Harry Henson Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs on turf here April 22. Third for much of the race, High Standards finished fifth, 1 1/2 lengths behind Juliesugardaddy.

"He bobbled on the turf, but he still kept trying," Jones said.

High Standards races close to the pace. In the Baldwin and San Pedro Stakes, he was just behind the leaders in the opening quarter-mile. In the Baldwin, he did not take the lead until the final furlong. In the San Pedro, he led turning into the stretch.

In the Grade 2 Barrera, run over seven furlongs for 3-year-olds, High Standards could face an early test from Storm Wolf, one of two entrants on winning streaks. , who has yet to start in California, has won his last three, all last summer and fall at Emerald Downs in Washington.

is making his stakes debut. Trained by Bruce Headley for Marsha Naify and Mercedes Stables, Storm Wolf won twice earlier this spring at Santa Anita - a maiden race on March 16 by seven lengths and an allowance race over six furlongs on the Santa Anita Derby undercard by 7 1/2 lengths on April 9. He was near the front in both wins.

Positive Prize's winning streak included an allowance race, the Laddie Stakes over a mile, and the Gottstein Futurity over 1 1/16 miles.

Now trained by Roger Stein, and owned by Ross McLeod and Charles Ming, Positive Prize has shown a series of fast works in recent weeks at Santa Anita.

River's Prayer ready for a stakes

The maiden race that River's Prayer won on Wednesday was something of a consolation to owner-trainer Paula Capestro.

She had hoped to start River's Prayer in the Nursery Stakes for 2-year-old fillies last Sunday but the filly did not draw in when the race was oversubscribed.

"That's what I had prepped her for," Capestro said.

When she finally made her debut on Wednesday, River's Prayer ran like a stakes-caliber filly in the maiden race, drawing off by five lengths and finishing 4 1/2 furlongs in 51.91 seconds.

"She's a freak of nature," Capestro said.

Wednesday's win earned River's Prayer a trip to a stakes. Her early summer goal is the $125,000 CTBA Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar on July 22.

Capestro said A to the Z, her top turf runner, may not start again until the $400,000 Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar on July 24.

A to the Z finished last of 10 in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 7.

"If I'd breezed him once over that course, I feel I would have been in better shape," she said.

A to the Z had been second in three previous starts: the Grade 1 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park in November, the Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita in January, and the Muniz Handicap at Fair Grounds in March. He has not won since the California Cup Mile at Santa Anita last October.

Oh, baby, what a year

Dawn Hunkin, a California-based veterinarian, will remember 2005 as a year for professional and personal milestones.

On the personal front, she became a mother for the first time in March, with the birth of a son, Jack.

Before and after Jack was born, Hunkin cared for Giacomo. When Giacomo pulled an upset in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, Hunkin and her 2-month-old son were among the crowd watching the race from trainer John Shirreffs's office on the Hollywood Park backstretch.

Hunkin, 34, got so caught up in the Kentucky Derby moment that she realized later she was jumping around, cheering and celebrating, with Jack in her arms. She doesn't intend to have that happen again in the Preakness - even if Giacomo wins. "I think this time I'll put him in a snuggly," she said.

As for Giacomo, Hunkin, who works for the practice of Von Bluecher, Prida, and Blea, said he has always been a horse that deserves respect, especially while being handled.

"He's a little finicky," she said. "He's a little bit temperamental. John has learned to manage him."