08/10/2002 12:00AM

Menacing Dennis on rebound


DEL MAR, Calif. - When Menacing Dennis left California in May for stakes in the East, he appeared on his way to a promising campaign. Three months later, he returns to the West attempting to repair his reputation.

Menacing Dennis starts in Monday's $100,000 Real Good Deal Stakes for statebred 3-year-olds at Del Mar, trying to end a five-race losing streak.

Following a second to Calkins Road in the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes at Hollywood Park on April 28, Menacing Dennis was unplaced in three starts at mid-Atlantic tracks, including a 10th in the Preakness Stakes and a fifth in the Leonard Richards Stakes at Delaware Park.

"Those races were a little too far," trainer Jeff Bonde said.

The seven-furlong Real Good Deal Stakes is restricted to nonwinners of two first-place purses of $50,000. It is the perfect place for Menacing Dennis to attempt to rebound.

Menacing Dennis will be ridden by Victor Espinoza, who was aboard for the head loss in the Snow Chief Stakes and an impressive win over six furlongs at Santa Anita on March 2, Menacing Dennis's first start of the year.

Menacing Dennis can lead or be rated near the pace. Owned by JMJ Racing, Menacing Dennis faces nine others, including Gobi Dan, the winner of the California Sires Stakes on turf on May 30; Surprized, who won the Cloud Memorial Stakes at Fresno last October; and Hot War, a maiden winner over this track last year.

Like Menacing Dennis, Gobi Dan is seeking comfort at the statebred level. Following his win in the California Sires Stakes, he finished sixth in the Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap on June 30 and fifth in the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes, losing by 9 1/4 lengths to Came Home.

Surprized finished third in the 2001 California Cup Juvenile, but was out of training until early summer. He returned to finish fourth in the Ernest Finley Handicap against older horses at the Sonoma County Fair at Santa Rosa on July 27.

Hot War beat older horses in a turf sprint at Hollywood Park on July 17, but was only fifth in an allowance race-optional claimer over 6 1/2 furlongs here on Aug. 3. A front-runner, Hot War will be ridden by Eddie Delahoussaye, who has been aboard for both of the colt's wins.

Trainer Warren Stute is worried that the seven-furlong distance of the Real Good Deal Stakes may be too far.

"He doesn't want to to run too far," Stute said. "Hopefully, Eddie D. can do a miracle."