06/09/2003 11:00PM

Night Patrol to return to turf

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Night Patrol has won 10 of 50 starts, captured three stakes, and earned $704,273 - and his trainer, Nick Canani, still has the pleasant problem of wondering whether he is best on turf or dirt.

The 7-year-old Night Patrol is nominated for the $400,000 Californian Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on the main track and the $350,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap over 1 1/4 miles on turf. Both are Saturday at Hollywood Park.

Canani on Tuesday said that Night Patrol will be pointed for the Whittingham, and that the decision was made primarily because of field size.

There are nine probables for the Grade 2 Californian, but only six, including Night Patrol, for the Grade 1 Whittingham.

Another factor that went into the decision by Canani and owner Jeff Nielsen was Night Patrol's second-place finish in the 2002 Whittingham, which he lost by 1 1/4 lengths to Denon. In the past year, Denon has won two major stakes, including the Manhattan Handicap last weekend, and placed in three other major races.

Denon is not starting in Saturday's Whittingham, but Night Patrol will face a tough favorite in Storming Home, the winner of the Jim Murray Handicap last month in his U.S. debut.

Canani respects Storming Home, the 124-pound topweight, but is willing to take a chance with Night Patrol, who will carry 114 pounds.

"We're getting 10 pounds, and we'll take advantage of that," Canani said. "I think our horse is better on the lead. He's a speed horse, so we'll see what happens."

Nothing positive was happening for Night Patrol through most of the winter. Following an upset win in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile on turf at Santa Anita last fall, Night Patrol struggled through a four-race losing streak that included losses in three stakes and a last-place finish in an optional claimer in which he was eligible to be claimed for $150,000.

Seeking a confidence-builder, Canani sent Night Patrol to Sunland Park, where he won the $100,000 Sunland Park Handicap on the main track April 5.

"He wasn't to his grass form at that point, so we wanted to try something new and see if he took to the dirt, and he did," Canani said. "He had hooked a couple of soft turf courses, which he's not crazy about. The turf has been firm at Hollywood Park, and that helps him out. He might be coming back into form. He's doing fantastic."

Canani said he has not settled on who will ride Night Patrol. Aside from Storming Home, who will be heavily favored, the other candidates are Blue Steller, Cagney, Gigli, and Mister Acpen.

Mister Acpen won an allowance race on turf on May 21, leading throughout, but he probably won't be the pacesetter in the Whittingham. That role is expected to go to Night Patrol.

Saturday full of stakes

The Californian is the most lucrative of three stakes on Saturday's program.

A prep for the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 13, the Californian is expected to include Calkins Road, Fleetstreet Dancer, Gondolieri, Kudos, Lethal Instrument, Piensa Sonando, Reba's Gold, Western Pride, and Wooden Phone.

Western Pride is the likely favorite. He won the San Bernardino Handicap in April and finished second in the Pimlico Special last month. Gondolieri and Piensa Sonando, both owned by Nelson Bunker Hunt, will be coupled as an entry. Both have won stakes over the Hollywood Park main track in the last year. Gondolieri won the Inglewood Handicap - which was originally scheduled for turf - on May 3, and Piensa Sonando won the Native Diver Handicap here last December.

The Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks is also on Saturday's program. Run over 1 1/16 miles, the race is expected to draw seven runners. Santa Catarina, second in the Kentucky Oaks, heads a field that will include Harbor Blues, who was second in the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park in April.

Atswhatimtalknbout to rest up

Atswhatimtalknbout, unraced since a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, underwent a precautionary nuclear scan earlier this week. Although the procedure revealed no injuries, trainer Ron Ellis said that Atswhatimtalknbout will be given a rest in the next month to allow an injured foot to heal.

Ellis does not expect Atswhatimtalknbout to start until the fall and has ruled out an attempt to be ready for the Breeders' Cup.

A quarter crack cost Atswhatimtalknbout training time in May and led to his missing the Belmont Stakes. Ellis said that a bruise developed into an abscess, which led to a quarter crack.

"We need to let his foot heal up," Ellis said. "If we do it right now, I shouldn't have trouble down the road."

Ellis said his next major objective for Atswhatimtalknbout is the Strub Series at Santa Anita, which begins in late December and continues into early next year. A winner of 2 of 6 starts and $209,120, Atswhatimtalknbout has yet to win a stakes, but he was second in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita in March.

"I hope to get a start by October or November," Ellis said. "The time off will do him some good."

Super High back in training

Super High, the winner of the California Cup Matron last November, has returned to training with Carla Gaines after being out over the winter because of a leg injury.

Owned by Harris Farms, Super High has not started since finishing fourth in the Cat's Cradle Handicap at Hollywood Park on Nov. 24, the final start of a 2002 campaign that included 5 wins in 11 starts and earnings of $410,748.

On Tuesday at Santa Anita, Super High worked a half-mile in 47.60 seconds. Gaines expects the 4-year-old Super High to return to racing during the Del Mar meeting later this summer.

Last year, Super High won four stakes, racing on turf and dirt. Aside from the Matron, she won the California Sires Stakes and Solana Beach Handicap against California-breds and the Flawlessly Stakes against open company.

* Makeup Artist, the winner of the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes on May 7, is continuing her recovery from colic surgery, trainer John Shirreffs said. A 3-year-old, Makeup Artist has been sent to Rancho Paseana, near Del Mar, and is expected to be out of training until late summer.