07/08/2002 11:00PM

Hot Market has speed to burn


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Hot Market can earn a trip to the $250,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar next month with a victory in a $55,000 allowance race at Hollywood Park on Thursday.

Since early April, the 4-year-old Hot Market has shown remarkable improvement, winning two allowance races over 1 1/16 miles and finishing third in another to Palmeiro, who later won the All-American Handicap at Bay Meadows.

A winner in his last start, June 5, Hot Market is the probable favorite in Thursday's third race, but the distance of 7 1/2 furlongs is a worry for trainer Craig Lewis.

"It's not the race I wanted, but he's doing well," Lewis said. "I'm reluctant to go 7 1/2 furlongs. It's not really a route and it's not a sprint. I'd rather go farther. But he's good right now, and you have to take what they give you when you get to this condition."

For non-winners of three other than, the allowance race has drawn five entrants, including Bayou the Moon, winner of the Alydar Stakes in 2001. Trained by Richard Mandella, Bayou the Moon was third in the Affirmed Handicap and fifth in the Swaps Stakes last summer before going to the sidelines.

The field also includes Global Gait, Nick, and Slewston.

Global Gait won two stakes for Maryland-breds in 2000, but is winless in five starts since being acquired privately by Bob and Beverly Lewis in early 2001. Trained by Bob Baffert, Global Gait was fourth at Santa Anita in March in his last start.

Nick ran in allowance races in Chile last year and was a game second in his U.S. debut over 7 1/2 furlongs on June 14, losing by a length to Top Hit after racing close to the pace.

Slewston starts from the outside. Trained by Jack Van Berg, the 4-year-old Slewston lost an optional claimer by a nose on June 6. Slewston can lead, but is unlikely to try to stay with Hot Market, who can run an opening quarter-mile in 22 seconds and still be around at the finish.

"When you've got the kind of speed he has, he can be dangerous when he gets out there," Lewis said.

The development of Hot Market since his return from a one-year layoff in March has been a pleasant surprise for Lewis and owners John Harris and Per Antonsen. A win on Thursday would convince them that the San Diego Handicap on Aug. 4 is a logical goal.

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