10/12/2004 12:00AM

Mulhall has been working on 'Dream'


ARCADIA, Calif. - Dream Machine gets a little extra attention from trainer Kristin Mulhall each morning.

"I spend like an hour and a half on him every single day," said Mulhall, who exercises many of her own horses.

Since was claimed for $40,000 in July, Mulhall says the 5-year-old gelding has been a project. She said he was anxious, but has become calmer in recent weeks.

Whether that attention has been successful will be known on Thursday when Dream Machine starts as a favorite in a $48,000 optional claimer at 1 1/8 miles on turf at Santa Anita.

"He was neurotic when I got him," Mulhall said. "I think he's schooled in the paddock every day since this meeting opened."

Dream Machine has started once for Mulhall and owner Paul Haggar. On Aug. 23 at Del Mar, he finished second by a half-length in a $50,000 claimer at a mile on turf, rallying from fourth.

Mulhall deliberately did not enter Dream Machine for a claiming price on Thursday, even though the $62,500 tag would make for a tidy profit for Haggar after three months.

"I don't want to lose him," Mulhall said. "I thought of running him in the Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap, but I didn't want to ship him. He needs schooling.

"I've been entering him like crazy, and they finally used this race."

The track needed the race. There are only five entrants in the optional claimer, the third race on an eight-race program that drew 61 horses. The first two races have fields of five and six.

Dream Machine drew the outside post, and he could get an ideal trip for his stalking style.

Dream Machine is winless in his last 13 starts, since an allowance race at Hollywood Park in December 2002. Earlier that year, he finished second in a division of the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar.

, unraced since finishing second in an optional claimer at Santa Anita last February, is likely to set the pace. Pinkhair, who has not started since finishing seventh in an allowance race at Hollywood Park on May 28, also races near the front.

Pinkhair was stakes placed twice in France in 2003 but has struggled in four starts in this country, failing to finish in the top three.

Manhattan Express and Stratus will be longshots. They were fifth and eighth in the Phil Shepherd Stakes at Fairplex Park on Sept. 11 in their last start.