05/06/2003 11:00PM

New and improved Murray

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The six runnings of the Jim Murray Handicap that trainer Bobby Frankel won from 1990 to last year are a far cry in quality from the renewal that will be held Saturday.

In its first 13 runnings, the Murray was a restricted stakes race that served as a springboard to major stakes. This year, the purse has been enhanced from $75,000 to $400,000, making it the most valuable turf marathon of the Hollywood Park spring-summer meet.

Consequently, Frankel is starting two of his established turf horses and not some prospects. He will be represented by Chiselling and Denon, who are capable of winning the ungraded Murray, which is run at 1 1/2 miles on turf.

Denon had an outstanding season in 2002, winning two Grade 1 stakes races, the Charles Whittingham Handicap and Turf Classic Invitational, and finishing fifth in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Arlington Park. Jerry Bailey will ride.

Chiselling, a half-brother to Kentucky Derby runner-up Empire Maker, won the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes last August. He has not started since finishing third in the Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park last September.

"They're both doing well," Frankel said. "I think Denon has done a little more in his training."

Frankel will need his horses to be at their best to win Saturday. The Murray Handicap, named for the late Los Angeles Times sportswriter, has drawn a strong field.

The top contenders include Ballingarry, the winner of the Canadian International last September; The Tin Man, unraced since winning the San Luis Obispo Handicap at Santa Anita in February; and Storming Home, the winner of the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Newmarket, England, last October.

'Rapido' knows one way to go

The Murray is one of three stakes races on Saturday's program, joined by the $200,000 Los Angeles Times Handicap at six furlongs and the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at 1 1/16 miles.

Hombre Rapido, who set a Hollywood Park track record of 1:01.67 for 5 1/2 furlongs last December, starts in the Los Angeles Times Handicap, a race in which he finished sixth last year.

Hombre Rapido, a 6-year-old, made two starts at Santa Anita earlier this year, winning a six-furlong allowance race Jan. 12 and finishing fourth as a heavy favorite in an allowance race March 19.

"The last time he ran he bruised a foot," trainer John Sadler said. "I had an excuse for him. He missed a few days."

Sadler admits that the track record performance last December could be subject to scrutiny.

"There is an asterisk by it," Sadler said. "It was a turf race that was [switched to dirt]."

In the Los Angeles Times Handicap, Hombre Rapido will be ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., who has ridden the gelding in his last three starts. There is no doubt that Valdivia will have Hombre Rapido on the pace.

"The only thing that beats him is that he's one-dimensional," Sadler said. "We've tried him different ways and he's not the same as he is on the lead."

The field for the Los Angeles Times Handicap, formerly known as the Los Angeles Handicap, will include Disturbingthepeace, Do Whats Right, Echo Eddie, Giovannetti, Golden Hare, Laffit, Medecis, Men's Exclusive, and Publication.

The field for the Mervyn LeRoy will include Bring Home Thegold, Fleetstreet Dancer, Lethal Instrument, Palmeiro, Piensa Sonando, Shacane, Sunday Break, Total Impact, and Wooden Phone.

Milwaukee Brew breezes

Milwaukee Brew, unraced since winning the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap March 1, breezed a half-mile in 49.20 seconds Wednesday, his first workout since recovering from an illness in March.

Also Wednesday, Medaglia d'Oro returned to the racetrack for the first time since suffering a minor injury in his stall in late April.

Trained by Bobby Frankel, Milwaukee Brew worked in company with stablemate Nose the Trade. The two started the workout a half-length apart and worked as a team, with Milwaukee Brew racing on the outside under jockey Patrick Valenzuela.

The 6-year-old Milwaukee Brew had been out of training since running a temperature in March. Frankel is pointing Milwaukee Brew for the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles July 13, but has not ruled out a start in the $400,000 Californian Stakes at 1 1/8 miles June 14.

Medaglia d'Oro stepped on himself in his stall April 18, ripping off a portion of his foot, Frankel said. The injury will prevent him from starting in the Pimlico Special May 16. Frankel is considering the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs June 14 for Medaglia d'Oro.

"He missed two weeks of training so I don't think it will set him back too far," Frankel said. "He's such a good athlete."

Medaglia d'Oro has made two starts this year, winning the Strub Stakes at Santa Anita and the Oaklawn Handicap at Oaklawn Park.

Final Destination retired

Final Destination, who won five consecutive races in New Zealand and California from 2001 until earlier this year, has been retired after suffering an injury in the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap April 27, Frankel said.

Final Destination had a troubled trip in the Wilshire, bumping with a rival on the final turn before rallying to finish 3 1/2 lengths behind Dublino. The 5-year-old Final Destination has been shipped to Kentucky and will be bred to Gone West.

Owned by Edmund Gann, Final Destination won 6 of 12 starts and $224,514. In New Zealand, she won two Group 1 races in November 2001 - the 1000 Guineas and the Bayer Classic against males. Sent to the United States last year, she won her first two starts in this country, including the Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap at Santa Anita in February.