06/28/2005 12:00AM

Lila Hope best of small bunch

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - A lack of entries has left Thursday's program at Hollywood Park with only 51 horses entered over eight races.

The card includes four races for maiden claimers and one maiden special weight race. Only one race drew eight entrants, four have seven entrants, and three have five.

The feature race is a $51,000 optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles for California-bred fillies and mares that has just five runners.

Two lucrative allowance races were not used after failing to draw sufficient entries.

Several factors contributed to the lack of entries. Some divisions of horses lack depth, crippling allowance-class races and some of the higher-priced claiming races.

Some owners and trainers are waiting with their top horses for the Del Mar meeting, which begins on July 20.

Hollywood Park is running six days this week to include the Fourth of July holiday on Monday, a further stress on the horse population.

In addition, injuries on a circuit that races year-round have forced many horses to the sidelines.

Those factors all contributed to Thursday's thin program.

The field for the optional claimer, run as the seventh race, comprises Las Vegas Jitters, Lila Hope, Cafe Katy, Ruffett, and Bit of Folly.

Japanese jockey Yuichi Fukunaga, who will ride Cesario in Sunday's $750,000 American Oaks, has the mount on .

, second in an allowance race at this level on June 3, will be favored. Trained by Jenine Sahadi, Lila Hope was beaten four lengths by I Can Yodele in her last start. The race was run over 1 1/16 miles. Lila Hope dueled for the lead but could not keep pace in the final furlong.

Lila Hope has one victory in eight starts. She won a maiden race for California-breds over 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park last December.

Sahadi tried Lila Hope on the turf but found that the 4-year-old filly did not like the surface.

Racing on dirt at Hollywood was a different matter.

"She likes it over there," Sahadi said from her Santa Anita base.

Lila Hope will be fitted with blinkers on Thursday.

"She needs a little bit of help focusing, but she's honest," Sahadi said.