11/08/2002 12:00AM

Rain makes Steinlen a new ballgame

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - A persistent rainstorm has forced Hollywood Park officials to scrap weekend turf racing and move both stakes to the main track - the $125,000 Matiara for 3-year-old fillies Saturday and the $70,000 Steinlen Handicap for older horses Sunday. Five turf races scheduled Friday and Saturday were switched to dirt; the Sunday card is main track only.

Even in wet weather, turf stakes typically are not taken off the grass two days beforehand. But racing secretary Martin Panza saw no reason to delay the inevitable decision.

"There's no point messing around after three days of rain," he said.

Noting that rain had fallen all Thursday night and was expected to continue all day Friday and Saturday, Panza said, "It's a no-brainer; this is a big storm."

The turf-to-dirt swap turned the Steinlen inside out. Originally a prep for the Grade 2, $500,000 Citation Handicap on grass Nov. 30, the Steinlen instead becomes a dirt race that Reba's Gold will use to tune up for the $2 million Japan Cup Dirt on Nov. 23.

"I probably was going to run him on turf anyway, as a prep," trainer Dan Hendricks said. "I hate to use the word prep, because we're going for the win, but if he runs well and comes out of it well, we're on our way to Japan."

Reba's Gold finished third Oct. 6 in the Grade 2 Goodwood Handicap. He has six wins from 27 starts, and earnings of $468,21.

Reba's Gold faces six rivals - Seinne, Futural, Freedom Crest, Mercenary, Sigfreto, and Not for Me. Because the Steinlen was moved off turf even before the draw, trainer Bobby Frankel did not enter highweight Decarchy, preferring to train him up to the Citation.

Hendricks said Hollywood is not Reba's Gold's "most favorite track," but the 5-year-old will be justifiably favored. He enters in sharp form, and consistently earns triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures. David Flores rides Reba's Gold. Corey Nakatani will ride him in Japan.

Other starters include Seinne, who has recovered from a variety of foot problems. Although Seinne, a Chilean, has not raced since finishing ninth in the Pacific Classic in August, trainer Ron McAnally expressed optimism Friday regarding his comeback. Seinne won a Grade 2 turf race in April, and has won on dirt.

Freedom Crest, upsetter in the 2001 Goodwood, has not raced since bleeding in a Grade 3 stakes at Lone Star in May. Futural, disqualified from victory in the 2001 Hollywood Gold Cup, returns to Hollywood for the first time since June, when he was claimed for $80,000.

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