05/22/2003 11:00PM

Pressure is on Singletary

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Singletary might be on a two-race winning streak going into Sunday's $100,000 Will Rogers Handicap at Hollywood Park if only trainer Don Chatlos Jr. had issued a different set of instructions last month.

Chatlos is blaming himself for over-coaching before the La Puente Stakes at Santa Anita on April 12. In hindsight, Chatlos wishes he had told jockey David Flores to keep Singletary near the front. Sent off as the even-money favorite on the strength of a minor stakes win in March, Singletary was fourth early and rallied to finish second by a nose.

"I think I cost us in the last race," Chatlos said. "I told Flores that he was better off sitting behind them."

Chatlos already has worked out his interaction with Patrick Valenzuela before the Will Rogers, run over a mile on turf for 3-year-olds.

"This time, I'll keep my mouth shut and let P. Val do what he wants," Chatlos said. "Patrick knows the horse. He rode him when he broke his maiden."

In the Will Rogers, Singletary drew the rail in a six-horse field that lacks a graded stakes winner. Singletary is the lone stakes winner in the field, having won the one-mile Academy Road Stakes on turf at Santa Anita on March 14.

The other leading contenders are Rapier Dance, who was second in the Ascot Handicap at Bay Meadows on May 10, and Winning Stripe, who was second in the Golden State Mile in February, but then ran only eighth in the Snow Chief Stakes here on April 26.

The other starters are American Fury, a likely pacesetter making his stakes debut; Banshee King, who was second in his 3-year-old debut on April 25; and Private Chef, a maiden winner in his debut at Santa Anita on Feb. 16. Private Chef was supplemented to the Will Rogers for $5,000 on Friday.

Singletary will be close to the pace, if not on it. Owned by Little Red Feather Racing, Singletary has won 2 of 6 starts and $120,250, with his wins coming on turf. He was winless in two dirt races for 3-year-olds earlier this year.

Chatlos expects Singletary to win the Will Rogers. Chatlos is hoping that Singletary will start in the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park in August.

"He has to improve in every race to get there," he said. "This race makes me nervous because we are expected to win."