06/07/2001 12:00AM

Look who's back - Jamaican Rum


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Far from the glare of the Triple Crown, Jamaican Rum starts as a heavy favorite in Saturday's $100,000 California Sires Stakes at Hollywood Park, his first race since finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby.

Trainer James Cassidy considered the Preakness Stakes for Jamaican Rum, but eventually decided to return to his base in Southern California and put the gray back on turf, the only surface he has won on this year.

Last January, Jamaican Rum won the minor Hill Rise Handicap over a mile on turf at Santa Anita. Saturday's California Sires Stakes is run on turf over 1 1/16 miles.

"I was watching that race the other night and he was pretty close to the pace," Cassidy said. "I was surprised. What makes that race special is the way he took to the turns."

In the Kentucky Derby, Jamaican Rum had a far different trip. Wide for much of the 1 1/4 miles, he was last of 17 after a quarter-mile and finished sixth, 12 3/4 lengths behind Monarchos. He was still 12th with a quarter-mile remaining.

Cassidy brought him home and focused on a return to turf, keeping the Del Mar Derby as a long-term goal.

"I gave him five or six days off," Cassidy said. "He's acting good and he hasn't missed any meals. I knocked around the Preakness, but it came up too fast for this horse. I got my wish. I got him back to California."

Owned by Southern Nevada Racing Stable, Jamaican Rum has won 2 of 9 starts and $287,085. Aside from the Hill Rise Stakes, his only other win came in the 2-year-old version of Saturday's race - a seven-furlong stakes at Santa Anita last October. Earlier this year, he was second in the Arkansas Derby, losing to Balto Star, and third to Point Given in the San Felipe Stakes.

There is not much competition for Jamaican Rum on Saturday. The biggest threat is Cherokee Kim, who was fifth in the Snow Chief Stakes and Santa Anita Derby in April.

With only six starters, Jamaican Rum will not be too far from the pace. Eddie Delahoussaye has the mount, but will not hear an earful of instructions from Cassidy.

"You never know what the master will do," Cassidy said of Delahoussaye. "When he leaves the gate, he's got it all figured out."