05/21/2003 12:00AM

Los Solano fits at this level


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Los Solano made a flashy start to his career in the United States in January with a 16-1 upset in an optional claiming race on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita.

In three subsequent starts, he has been unplaced in two stakes races and third in an optional claiming race, all on turf.

Not surprisingly, trainer Jerry Fanning has chosen a $51,000 optional claiming race for Los Solano's next start, a turf sprint at 5 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park on Friday evening.

"We've dropped him a little bit," Fanning said. "I ran him in two stakes and he couldn't beat those horses."

The class drop could help Los Solano win for the second time this year.

Owned by a partnership that includes Fanning, Los Solano raced in Germany last year, where his lone victory in seven starts came in a minor handicap at seven furlongs on turf at the prestigious Baden-Baden meet.

Fanning is concerned that Friday's distance of 5 1/2 furlongs may be too short for Los Solano, who can be claimed for $80,000.

"He's kind of between; 6 1/2 or seven furlongs may be his best race," Fanning said. "Sometimes at 5 1/2, they do come from off the pace."

Los Solano, a late runner, drew post 5 in a field of seven. He will be ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., who was aboard for a sixth-place finish in the Grade 3 San Simeon Handicap. Los Solano was closing late, but finished three lengths behind Speak in Passing.

Friday, Los Solano's main threat is Sporting Lad, who finished second in an optional claiming race over this course May 1. Trained by Carla Gaines, Sporting Lad figures to be the favorite. He is likely to lead, and could be closely pursued by Sailinwithcaptain and Line Rider.

Sailinwithcaptain is the lone 3-year-old in the field. Trained by Bob Baffert, Sailinwithcaptain won the Don B. Stakes for California-bred 2-year-olds last November at Bay Meadows, but was unplaced in two stakes races last November and December.

Line Rider won the Harry Henson Stakes over this course and distance in April 2002. He is winless in his last four starts since then, including an eighth-place finish in the San Simeon Stakes.

The other three starters are capable of an upset. Bourbon County won a sprint on turf at Santa Anita and finished fourth in the Khaled Stakes last month. Quinton's Gold was third behind Sporting Lad on May 1 and won the 2002 Phoenix Gold Cup at Turf Paradise. Halo Hunter was a group stakes winner in Argentina last year on dirt.