06/11/2002 12:00AM

Milwaukee Brew no lock as a closer in Californian

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - He is the only Grade 1 winner in the field, and training superbly for his first start in three months. Milwaukee Brew, however, is no cinch to win the Grade 2, $500,000 Californian on Saturday at Hollywood Park.

"He's dead fit, I know that," said his trainer, Bobby Frankel.

But Milwaukee Brew's closing style places him at a theoretical disadvantage at 1 1/8 miles, and Frankel recognizes the dilemma. "I don't know if there's enough pace, and the way this track is playing, it's if the race sets up for him."

Front-runners have dominated main-track routes here since the middle of May. Through Sunday, 18 of the last 22 main-track routes had been won by a horse within two lengths of the lead after the first half-mile. The profile works against late-runner Milwaukee Brew, who was freshened after a decisive win in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 2.

Owned by Frank Stronach, Milwaukee Brew's less-than-hectic campaign is by design. The ultimate goal for him is the Breeders' Cup Classic. The first summertime goal for him is the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 14. Milwaukee Brew worked six furlongs Monday in 1:12.20, fastest of the day.

A field of at least eight is taking shape for the Californian. Beyond likely favorite Milwaukee Brew, the field includes graded stakes winners Bosque Redondo, Momentum, and Redattore, along with Investor's Dream, Lethal Instrument, Pie N Burger, and Reba's Gold.

Sky Jack loosens his legs

Hours before Milwaukee Brew runs in the Californian Saturday, Sky Jack will work out for the Hollywood Gold Cup. Sky Jack, a runaway winner of the Mervyn LeRoy on May 12, who is unbeaten in four starts at Hollywood, is back in training and taking aim on the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup.

"We definitely have [July 14] circled on the calendar," said Sky Jack's trainer, Doug O'Neill. "He worked Saturday in 50 [seconds] breezing, and he should work every Saturday up to the race."

Sky Jack's half-mile work Saturday was his first since winning the Mervyn LeRoy by 5 1/2 lengths. "He came out of the race great; we gave him a little bit of R and R after the race," O'Neill said.

Crowned Dancer goes Sunday

Crowned Dancer, pro-tem leader of the 2-year-old division following his five-length romp in the Willard Proctor Stakes on May 26, will run back in the $75,000 Haggin Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on Sunday. Crowned Dancer, trained by Chris Paasch, won the Proctor with a 92 Beyer Speed Figure, and originally was expected to await the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile on July 20.

"I don't like to run 2-year-olds that often, but watching this horse train [it would be difficult] to hold him for two months," Paasch said. "He's a scary horse. If we dare to dream that far ahead, and everything works out right, he would have four more races before the Breeders' Cup - this, the Hollywood Juvenile, the Best Pal [at Del Mar], and the Del Mar Futurity."

Crowning Dancer will be ridden by Alex Solis, which frees up the mount on the second choice, Oberwald, a California-bred by Swiss Yodeler who won his second start by 2 1/2 lengths, earning an 80 Beyer and defeating subsequent maiden winner Chief Planner. Oberwald, ridden by Solis his first two starts, is one of two Mike Harrington-trained runners expected for the Haggin. The other is Luzern. Victor Espinoza is expected to ride Oberwald; Kent Desormeaux is expected to ride Luzern.

Skipping steps up in Whittingham

Ringaskiddy and Sarafan will be the 118-pound co-highweights for the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Handicap on Saturday, but the role of favorite could fall to 117-pound Skipping. The 5-year-old Skipping is stepping up following a two-length win over Startac in a restricted stakes, and is one of three Bobby Frankel-trained horses being considered for the 1 1/4-mile turf race.

The other two Frankel horses who might go in the Whittingham are Denon, winner of the Hollywood Derby and then foiled by circumstances in two subsequent starts, and three-other-than allowance winner Kappa King. Denon encountered severe traffic trouble as the 3-5 favorite in the San Luis Obispo in February at Santa Anita, then was unable to make up ground chasing a slow pace in the San Luis Rey in March. If he does not run in the Whittingham, Kappa King will ship to Lone Star for the $250,000 Dallas Turf Cup, according to Frankel.

Skipping has won 4 of 11 starts, and will be making only his third U.S. start in the Whittingham. Ringaskiddy will be racing for the first time since winning the San Juan Capistrano, a race in which Whittingham probable Continental Red finished third. Other likely starters include Startac, Cagney, Night Patrol, and Seinne.

* The Frankel-trained Beat Hollow, winner of the Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont Saturday, is expected to return to California and run July 28 in the Grade 1 Eddie Read at Del Mar.

* Euchre worked six furlongs Tuesday at Hollywood Park for Frankel and is being pointed for the $325,000 Cornhusker Handicap on July 6 at Prairie Meadows.