12/03/2004 1:00AM

Kela recuperates quickly


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - A week after being scratched from the $350,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct because of illness, Kela has been supplemented to Sunday's $100,000 Vernon Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Trainer Mike Mitchell insists that Kela is ready for the Grade 3 Underwood, which is run over six furlongs. In the last week, Kela has undergone four blood tests and has passed each, Mitchell said.

"We took a blood on him Wednesday and he looked great," Mitchell said. "He galloped on Wednesday. We took a blood Thursday and he had no temperature and he looked great. Maybe we can get our shipping money back."

Owned by Jay Moonagian, Kela has been one of the nation's top sprinters this year, winning the Bing Crosby and Pat O'Brien handicaps at Del Mar and finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30, his most recent start.

Kela is seeking his fourth stakes win of the year in the Underwood, which drew eight runners. Because of the proximity between the attempted start in the Cigar Mile and the Underwood, Kela has not worked in the last week.

"I know he's pretty good. We think he's pretty strong," Mitchell said. "I had him ready to run a one-turn mile, so I didn't need to blow him out.

"I don't have to run him. That's why I've tried to take every precaution that I can. I feel this is a good race before the year is out."

For a $100,000 race, the Underwood has drawn a strong field on an otherwise drab program. Aside from Kela, the top contenders include My Cousin Matt, who was third at 60-1 in the BC Sprint; Our New Recruit, the winner of the $2 million Golden Shaheen Sprint in Dubai in March; and Watchem Smokey, the defending champion.

Kela is a closer who should have plenty of pace to chase in pursuit of pacesetters My Master, Our New Recruit, and Taste of Paradise, who is making his first start since finishing fifth behind Kela in the Pat O'Brien in August. The Underwood is Taste of Paradise's first start for trainer Gary Mandella.

Our New Recruit, who was second in the 2003 Underwood, finished a troubled 12th in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

"All we need to do is go back out there and show ourselves," trainer John Sadler said. "We would like to see a good race."

Our New Recruit won the restricted Pirate's Bounty Stakes at Del Mar in September in his first start following Dubai.