12/04/2004 1:00AM

Pellegrino gets up by head to upset Turf Cup


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Pellegrino, who had been a disappointment since arriving from South America last year, pulled an upset in Saturday's $250,000 at Hollywood Park.

Pellegrino ($22.40) rallied from seventh in a field of nine to upset a field that included Better Talk Now, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30.

Had Better Talk Now won the Grade 1 Turf Cup, he would have greatly increased his chances to claim the Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding turf horse. Kitten's Joy remains the leading contender for the award.

Pellegrino finished 1 1/2 miles on turf in 2:29.73. Ridden by Gary Stevens, he rallied along the inside through the stretch to win by a head over Megahertz, a 5-year-old mare. License to Run, a Brazilian import, finished third, and Moscow Burning was fourth. The first four finishers were within a length at the finish.

Better Talk Now finished sixth. He took the lead on the final turn but could not sustain the rally.

Jockey Jose Valdivia, Jr., who rode Moscow Burning, lodged an objection against Rene Douglas, who rode Megahertz, alleging interference in early stretch. The stewards disallowed the objection.

The victory marked Pellegrino's fourth win in 15 starts and the most prestigious of his career. Owned by Gary Tanaka and trained by Donald Burke II, Pellegrino had finished second in the Grade 3 Carleton Burke Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 23 in his previous start. Pellegrino has earned $275,676.