01/03/2003 1:00AM

It may be downhill for Macward foes


Sometimes it's a long time between drinks.

Trainer Ian Jory hopes the drought ends Sunday when he sends out Macward to defend his title in the $100,000 Sensational Star Handicap. The race, for California-breds at 6 1/2 furlongs on the downhill turf course, was the last time Macward tasted victory.

"He won the race last year and hasn't won since," said Jory. Calling Sensational Star, a 7-year-old gelded son of Sharp Victor, a 6 1/2-furlong specialist, Jory said, "We have to wait for Santa Anita all the time. But he did have a bleeding problem last year, which we've sorted out now."

And that could be the key. Macward isn't exactly a spring chicken, and once an older horse starts to have bleeding problems, a realistic concern is whether he will ever be the same. Macward's workouts in recent weeks show he may be ready to get back to the form of a year ago, which saw him do his best work down the hill.

He's going to need it, too. Foes figure to include Lennyfromalibu, Sea to See, and Turkish Prize.

Trainer Barry Abrams already knows Lennyfromalibu is rock-solid at the trip. It's the company that's the question mark.

"He's getting better," Abrams said of Lennyfromalibu. "He's learning how to run. He could be a decent horse as he gets older, because he's still got a lot of improvement left in him. He's probably going to be a decent distance horse, but he just needs to learn how to relax. After this race, there probably won't be any sprints for a while, so we'll see what happens."

Trainer Mike Machowsky will send out Sea to See for the first time since the horse finished fourth in the Nov. 2 California Cup Mile.

"I've wanted to run him down the hill ever since I've had this horse," Machowsky said. "At Oak Tree, there wasn't really a good spot for him to run down the hill, being such a short meet. I think 6 1/2 is what he wants to do."

Trainer Ted H. West was in a similar position with Turkish Prize.

"There was nowhere else to run him," West said of Turkish Prize, an 8-year-old gelding and winner of the Cal Cup Mile in his last race. "I either had to run him in the Grade 1 Citation or just wait, so I figured we'd get him fresh for this race and then run him in the Sunshine Millions" - the $500,000 Barretts/CTBA Turf at 1 1/8 miles - "after that." The Sensational Star, said West, "is shorter than he wants to go, but he's so sharp right now, and he's put on a lot of weight since his last race, so it's a good little steppingstone for the mile and an eighth later on."

With Lennyfromalibu still a bit of a question mark at this level, Sea to See an unknown on the hill, and Turkish Prize likely wanting more ground, things may well add up to old boy Macward showing them how it's done, a year later.

The Hollywood road to the Triple Crown

What are the prospects for the likes of Toccet, Kafwain, or even Domestic Dispute after their fine showing in the Hollywood Futurity? Many people talk about the Remsen as being a key indicator of Triple Crown success, but the numbers tell a different story. It's the Hollywood Futurity that has produced the truest barometer of things to come in the classics.

Five Hollywood Futurity participants went on to win the Kentucky Derby: Gato del Sol, Ferdinand, Alysheba, Thunder Gulch, and Real Quiet. Five won the Preakness: Tank's Prospect, Snow Chief, Alysheba, Real Quiet, and Point Given. And three went on to capture the Belmont: A. P. Indy, Thunder Gulch, and Point Given.

Considering how well Toccet and Kafwain ran it will be no surprise if they have a huge say come the spring. And Remsen fans don't be dismayed - remember, Toccet won that race, too, so his continued success further flatters that Aqueduct race.

On the inside looking out

You can blame any number of losses by short-priced horses over the opening days of the meet to an inside draw. For the most part - and going against the usual Santa Anita track trend - the inside has not been helpful at all. Just consider You, who appeared to get mired down on the inside in the La Brea. Just consider Habibti, who never got involved from her inside draw in the same race.

Mayakovsky and Sunday Break ended up next to last and last from their inside slots in the opening-day Malibu. Perfect Woman, Volnay, Kinston, Bettor Royalty, and Tamarack Bay were all well-bet runners who failed to make an impact from their inside draws. The rail may not have been the reason they lost, but it sure didn't help matters.