12/08/2003 12:00AM

O'Neill wins coming at slower rate


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Doug O'Neill is third in the trainer standings at Hollywood Park, but after a record-setting Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting earlier this fall the results might seem like a disappointment.

Through Sunday, O'Neill had won with 8 of 71 starters and has had 25 horses finish second or third. He won 22 races during the seven-week Oak Tree meeting.

Wednesday at Hollywood Park, O'Neill starts Roberto's Show in the fifth race and Grant Marty a Wish in the seventh.

"We've had a bunch of second or thirds that could have been winners with a little luck," he said. "We've only had a few head-scratchers."

Roberto's Show is making his first start for O'Neill, having been transferred from Clifford Sise's barn following a fifth-place finish in an optional claimer for California-breds on Nov. 11. Owned by a partnership, Roberto's Show has one win in 18 starts, but has been second or third in eight races.

He appears in an optional claimer for state-breds over 1 1/16 miles of turf. There were 11 entrants, but only 10 can start. Five horses are eligible to be claimed for $40,000.

Other main contenders are Mr. Steve, second in the California Cup Starter Handicap over 1 1/2 miles of turf on Nov. 8; Oro Desert, a winner of two consecutive races; and Decimate, a fast-closing fourth on Nov. 11.

Grant Marty a Wish is more difficult to assess against five rivals in an optional claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf. She has won twice in turf sprints at Hollywood Park, but was pulled up by jockey Tyler Baze in the stretch of the California Cup Distaff when leading at the eighth pole.

"She took an awkward step near the dirt," O'Neill said. "Tyler wasn't sure if she broke down so he protected her."

Grant Marty a Wish has come back to work five furlongs twice in the last two weeks.

Grant Marty a Wish is a front-runner who will face early pressure from Talk Me Again, a winner of a turf sprint at Del Mar on Aug. 21. She has not started since finishing fourth in the C.E.R.F. Handicap at Del Mar on Sept. 10.

Another front-runner is A Smile Per Mile, a winner of two turf sprints for $62,500 claimers this fall for trainer Jeff Mullins. She is eligible to be claimed for $80,000 on Wednesday.

Quiet Delight, the runner-up in that race, makes her turf debut in Wednesday's seventh race. Quiet Delight is a stalker who could benefit from a quick early pace.