11/01/2004 1:00AM

Pick four betting focus of meet

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - After much election-year wrangling on whether to vote for four more years or four new years, horseplayers can put aside politics Wednesday and focus on finding four straight winners.

When Hollywood Park opens for a six-week autumn meet that is peppered with top-class turf racing, the track will rely on the $1 pick four to jazz up the wagering menu. Hollywood will offer $200,000 guaranteed pools in the pick four every day except Saturday, when the guarantee doubles to $400,000. It is the first time a track has adopted a meet-long strategy of daily guaranteed pools.

"We're seeing if a day-to-day guarantee can generate interest outside of California," track president Rick Baedeker said. He added he believes drawing attention to the wager means the track will exceed the guarantee.

Pick four pools during the 2003 autumn meet exceeded $200,000 on only two of 18 weekdays, and the pick four pools were less than $300,000 on all six Saturdays. The pick four is offered daily on the final four races of the card. Baedeker said it "could add spice to what could be a mundane Thursday."

While the Hollywood Futurity and Starlet for 2-year-olds offer a glimpse at next year's Kentucky Derby and Oaks hopefuls, grass racing is the focus of the fall meet. Four of the six Grade 1 races are on turf, including three during the Nov. 26-28 Autumn Turf Festival. The Citation Handicap on Nov. 27 may include Breeders' Cup Mile winner Singletary; the Matriarch on Nov. 28 may attract Six Perfections and any of the 10 fillies and mares that run well Wednesday in the race 6 feature.

The mile turf allowance attracted graded-stakes-winning sprinter Belleski, Grade 1-placed Quero Quero, and comebacking stakes winner Bettys Wish. The conditions - nonwinners of $50,000 at a mile or more in 2004 - typically favor sprinters stretching out and stakes-placed routers. It makes Belleski and Quero Quero the ones to beat, while Bettys Wish returns for a stable whose layoff horses usually are ready to fire.

Fresh off a Grade 3 sprint win, Belleski goes long for trainer John Sadler.

"We were looking to get a race as a prep for the Matriarch or [Grade 2] Dahlia," he said. "She is doing well, she had a nice work, and when she's working well, she runs well."

Belleski has won 7 of 14, and has enough tactical speed to overcome post 9.

Quero Quero drops after three Grade 1's, and though most of her races are at longer distances, she has won 2 of 3 at a mile. Trained by Paulo Lobo, Quero Quero won a Grade 2 at age 3, and enters having won 3 of 11 overall. Bettys Wish, 5 for 9, returns from a 10-month layoff for Bobby Frankel, and also was a graded stakes winner at age 3.

Other contenders include Shezsospiritual, Chasethegold, Voz De Colegiala, Notting Hill, and Acago. It's difficult to make a case for Fudge Fatale and Daisyago. The feature is the second leg of the pick four, which last autumn produced a median payoff of $500.

The bet may not pay much higher on Wednesday if race 5 favorite El Don delivers in the first leg. The 3-year-old El Don drops out of an eighth-place finish in the California Cup Sprint, and most trip handicappers agree the effort was not indicative of his ability. Trainer Marty Jones concurred.

"He did not have a real good trip," Jones said. "He broke slow and got bounced around, and by that time the race was pretty much over. Gary [Stevens] said it took him a good quarter-mile to find his stride."

El Don galloped out super past the wire, and has a great deal more speed than he was able to show. He faces only six rivals in the seven-furlong one-other-than allowance, and a clean start would allow him to make an easy lead over late-runner Montbretia and comebacker Melanyhashthepapers. El Don has won 2 of 5.

In race 7, a $62,500 optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles, Fail Me Not must rally from behind to catch Saint Buddy. In race 8, Is It True Mex faces Award Winning Team in a $40,000 claiming race at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf.

At a glance

RACING SCHEDULE: Wednesday through Sunday; closing day Monday, Dec. 20.

POST TIME: 12:30 p.m.; exceptions Nov. 3 and 10, post 7 p.m., and 11 a.m. Thanksgiving Nov. 25, post 11 a.m.

HIGHLIGHTS:

DateRacePurse
Nov. 27Citation Handicap (G1)$400,000
Nov. 28The Matriarch (G1)500,000
Nov. 28Hollywood Derby (G1) 500,000
Dec. 4Hollywood Turf Cup (G1) 250,000
Dec. 18Hollywood Futurity (G1) 250,000
Dec. 19Hollywood Starlet (G1) 250,000

PHONE: (310) 419-1500

LOCATION: Corner of Prairie Ave. and Century Blvd., Inglewood, California

INTERNET: www.hollywoodpark.com