04/07/2003 12:00AM

Puhich runs his meal ticket


ARCADIA, Calif. - Mike Puhich could only laugh while recalling his frustration of having one win from 24 starters at the Santa Anita meeting.

The bright spot has been Monsieur Boulanger, a European import who won a $62,500 claimer on March 28.

"He's overcome a terrible meeting," Puhich said, laughing.

Wednesday, Monsieur Boulanger makes a quick turnaround in an optional claimer over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course. Owned by Mark MacDonald, Monsieur Boulanger faces seven other 3-year-olds, including two English imports and Menuhin, who finished fifth in the Academy Road Stakes on March 14.

The optional claimer was not Puhich's first choice for Monsieur Boulanger, but he wanted to run him down the hill and the meet ends April 20.

"We were going to run in a $62,500 claimer, but they said there wasn't going to be one for the rest of the meeting," Puhich said. "Why not run? It's our last shot off the hill. He came back from his last race like it was a breeze."

Monsieur Boulanger may go favored in a wide-open field.

The English shippers are Night Speed and Texas Hill, both of whom have not started since October.

Night Speed is trained by Vladimir Cerin, and has one victory in nine starts, a maiden race last July.

Cerin warns that Night Speed may need a start. "This race will do him a lot of good," he said. "He doesn't get a lot out of his training."

Texas Hill made just two starts last year. Now trained by Kathy Walsh, he was third in a maiden race at Newbury on Sept. 21 and returned to win a maiden race against 14 opponents on the dirt course at Lingfield 18 days later. By Danehill, Texas Hill has shown quick workouts on dirt and turf in recent weeks.

Of the horses with recent starts, Menuhin and Rahy Vision should attract support.

Ron Ellis trains Rahy Vision, who was a tiring fifth in his turf course debut, a one-mile optional claimer over a mile on Jan. 31. Rahy Vision is winless in his last four starts, dating back to a sprint for maidens at Santa Anita last October.

Menuhin was beaten 4 1/2 lengths in the Academy Road Stakes after making a wide rally.

"This is about the only race that will fill," trainer Wally Dollase said. "I want to get him going. I really like the horse."

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