10/08/2001 12:00AM

Lightly raced Royal Highlander returns


ARCADIA, Calif. - Royal Highlander's career is behind schedule. A maiden winner at 2 in England, he has made only two subsequent starts, including a win in a turf sprint at Hollywood Park last December.

On Wednesday, the 4-year-old Royal Highlander returns in a $46,000 allowance race/optional claimer over about 6 1/2 furlongs on Santa Anita's hillside turf course. Facing six others, Royal Highlander may be favored despite his lengthy hiatus.

"He's got a lot of ability," trainer Jenine Sahadi. "I'm glad to have him back at the races."

Sahadi said Royal Highlander was ready to race at the beginning of the Oak Tree meeting in late September, but was pointed to this race. "He should be fit," Sahadi said. "I'm not saying he's 100 percent fit, but he's close."

Royal Highlander has made one start for Sahadi, the turf sprint win at Hollywood Park. Last year in England, he finished fifth in the European Free Handicap at Newmarket in his 3-year-old debut. Cape Town, the winner of that race, later ran third in the Irish 2000 Guineas.

The race Royal Highlander won at Hollywood Park was an allowance at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf, and he won it by a half-length after stalking the pace to early stretch.

Alex Solis retains the ride and is likely to have Royal Highlander closer to the front. The race appears to lack early speed, but Fierce Heart and Trampus Too have the ability to lead, and if they do it would help the late rally of Royal Highlander.

Royal Highlander is one of four starters coming off a layoff of three months or longer. Fierce Heart, owned and trained by E.G. Burnison, has not started since winning an allowance race on March 3, which was his third consecutive victory. Wednesday's race is his first start on turf.

Wa Dancer, third in the Round Table Handicap at Bay Meadows in May, makes his first start since June 23. Trampus Two seeks his third consecutive win in his first start since May 4 at Hollywood Park.

Among the others, Galavant and Abidjar will be longshots, but Jorrocks might be bet based on his Del Mar form.

Jorrocks won the San Carlos Handicap last April at Bay Meadows and was fifth in an allowance race at Del Mar Sept. 3. He won a allowance race on Aug. 8, but has never started on turf.

Galavant was stakes-placed at Hastings Park in August, but is winless in seven starts in 2001. Abidjar was fifth in the Relaunch Stakes at Del Mar, his first start in this country since arriving from Germany.