07/18/2002 12:00AM

Kafwain, baby with a bullet

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - One of the problems facing winners of early season 2-year-old stakes is the presence of recent maiden winners in the next major race.

Crowned Dancer and Oberwald have already scored stakes wins at the current Hollywood Park meeting, but they could be overshadowed in Saturday's $100,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship by Kafwain, a fast maiden winner trained by Bob Baffert.

"I think that's the one they have to beat," said Mike Harrington, who trains Oberwald. "My jockey jumped ship. That should say something."

Oberwald has won his last two starts, including the Haggin Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs on June 16, but jockey Victor Espinoza has opted to ride Kafwain, who won a five-furlong maiden race on June 22.

In the Haggin Stakes, Oberwald was always near the lead and pulled away to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Royal Place and Crowned Dancer, the winner of the Willard Proctor Memorial Stakes on May 26. Eddie Delahoussaye rides Oberwald in the Juvenile.

"It looked like he was kind of toying with them," Harrington said. "Victor was sitting there and when he asked him, he drew off. He looked pretty good. I think he's been pretty steady. He's going into the race as good as the last one."

Crowned Dancer will be fitted with blinkers in the Juvenile Championship, which is run over six furlongs.

Trainer Christopher Paasch was disappointed with Crowned Dancer's performance in the Haggin Stakes, but says the colt has trained well in recent weeks.

"I'm not 100 percent sold on the bounce theory but there must be some validity to it," Paasch said. "He will be equipped with blinkers."

Crowned Dancer should be a factor from the start. He is drawn outside in the field of seven, giving jockey Alex Solis the option of going early or watching the race unfold to his inside.

"He can do whatever happens," Paasch said. "He shows it in the morning and I'd think he can do it in the afternoon."

The field also includes the recent maiden winners Chief Planner, Kimon, Pine for Java, and Outta Here, who was second in his career debut. Chief Planner, trained by Baffert, won a maiden race for California-breds on June 8. A victory by the other three would be a surprise.

Like Chief Planner, Kafwain is making his stakes debut, but the style of his win on June 22 will make him the favorite - and the newcomer the recent stakes winners must beat.

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