06/16/2005 11:00PM

Preachinatthebar on the rise

Preachinatthebar is getting good again - and is ready to move up.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Victories in two allowance races this spring have revived the career of Preachinatthe-bar and left trainer Bob Baffert considering a start in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup next month for the 4-year-old colt.

Thursday, Preachinatthebar won his second consecutive allowance race on Thursday, scoring a nose victory over a determined Pt's Grey Eagle. Preachinatthebar ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.86.

The victory was satisfying for Baffert, who had planned to run Preachinatthebar in Saturday's $250,000 Californian Stakes until the allowance race was offered.

"I figured he could win that," Baffert said of the allowance race.

There is a concern from Baffert and owner Mike Pegram about how Preachinatthebar would handle the Gold Cup distance of 1 1/4 miles, but the July 9 race is not expected to draw the toughest handicap horses in the nation. Rock Hard Ten, the winner of the Santa Anita Handicap in March, is in light training and not expected to start until later in the year.

"I'll play it by ear. We'll either run in the Gold Cup or he'll ship back East," Baffert said.

He did not identify a potential race outside of California.

Preachinatthebar has won 4 of 15 starts and $284,068. He won the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes in March 2004 but was off the Kentucky Derby trail after finishing seventh in the Blue Grass Stakes a month later. After losing two more stakes, Preachinatthebar was taken out of training because of knee problems.

Preachinatthebar returned to training early this year, and has won 2 of 4 starts.

Gold Cup for Pt's Grey Eagle?

Trainer Craig Dollase said he was encouraged by Pt's Grey Eagle's runner-up finish in Thursday's race. The winner of the Grade 1 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap last fall for sprinters, Pt's Grey Eagle was making his second start of the year and first around two turns.

"We know he'll go two turns," Dollase said.

Dollase said Pt's Grey Eagle could be nominated for the Gold Cup.

The Hollywood Gold Cup field will not include Imperialism, the runner-up in the Strub Stakes in February and the seventh-place finisher in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 5.

Imperialism, 4, emerged from the Preachinatthebar race with a pulled muscle in his hind end, trainer Kristin Mulhall said. She is pointing the colt for a return at Del Mar and said he is currently jogging.

Ballplayers take up a new game

Major league baseball players are investing in racehorses more frequently than usual in recent months.

On Thursday, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny celebrated his first win as a horse owner when Excess Temptations won a maiden race for California-breds on turf. Penny is part of the partnership that owns Excess Temptations, who is trained by Howard Zucker.

Penny, who is 3 for 3 as a starter this year, was not able to attend the race. The Dodgers are on a road trip.

Recently, Penny told the Los Angeles Daily News that he had become a fan of racing while attending Calder, when he played for the Florida Marlins. This is his first foray into racehorse ownership.

Last summer, Penny was traded to the Dodgers in a multi-player deal that resulted in catcher Paul Lo Duca being sent to the Marlins. Lo Duca had begun claiming horses with trainer Doug O'Neill at the time of the trade.

Lo Duca, a former All-Star, still has a few horses in training in California. Thursday, he was part of a partnership that claimed Triple Strand for $50,000. Triple Strand finished third in a maiden claimer for fillies and mares over six furlongs.

Despite being based in Miami, Lo Duca keeps up with racing news, O'Neill said.

"I talk to him about once a week or so, and he watches the races when he can," O'Neill said. "He still actively wants to be involved in Southern California racing."

Guaranteed big exotic pools abound

Hollywood Park will offer seven guaranteed betting pools on its July 3 program, including guaranteed pools in the exacta and trifecta for the first time.

Guaranteed pools have become popular in the last decade for multi-win bets such as the pick six, pick four, and pick three.

For the July 3 program, there are guaranteed pools in a pick three, the late pick four, the pick six, and for the exactas and trifectas in two major stakes.

For the day's third race, the Vanity Handicap, there is a $200,000 guaranteed pick three.

A $1 million pick six will begin with the sixth race, the American Handicap.

The eighth race, the American Oaks, features $400,000 guaranteed pools in the pick four that begins with that race, as well as the exacta and trifecta. The same pool size is guaranteed for the exacta and trifecta in the ninth race, the Triple Bend Handicap.

Sabiango is retired

Sabiango, the winner of the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Handicap in June 2004, has been retired, trainer Tim Yakteen said.

Sabiango, 7, won 7 of 19 starts and $828,344. He won the Kentucky Cup Turf Handicap at Kentucky Downs last September. In his final start, he was unplaced in the Canadian International at Woodbine in October.

Owned by Monty Roberts, Sabiango was being prepared for a comeback when an ankle injury reappeared, causing the retirement.