11/15/2002 12:00AM

A rare case of the shoes making the horse


As the Nike commercial used to say, "It's gotta be the shoes."

Few days in Southern California warrant much concern over the kind of shoes horses are wearing, because track conditions there are so consistent. Even when rain comes, the tracks usually have been sealed, and the bottom remains firm and times are blistering. When the wet top is scraped away, the tracks soon become fast again.

But sealing the track wasn't going to help the Hollywood Park surface last weekend. The region received an inordinate amount of rain Friday and Saturday, and by the time Sunday rolled around, the track was muddy - like chocolate pudding - playing many seconds slower than usual.

Many horses found the track difficult to handle. So horsemen either bright enough or lucky enough to have used mud caulks on their runners for that day reaped the benefits. If you had caulks you could run your race; without them you were spinning your wheels.

Check these results:

o First race: Only one horse has caulks. She wins.

o Second race: Only one horse has caulks. She wins.

o Third race: Three of the six horses have caulks. They run one-two-four.

o Fourth race: One of the two horses wearing caulks in this six-horse field wins.

o Fifth race: Another winner wearing caulks.

o Sixth race: Three of the six wear caulks. They run one-two-four.

o Seventh race: The 7-1 winner wears caulks.

o Eighth race: Four of the seven wear caulks. Two of them make up the exacta.

o Ninth race: Finally, a winner who did not wear caulks. The highest-placed caulk-wearer finishes fourth.

Some horses that didn't wear mud calks last Sunday ran inexplicably poorly. They may be worth giving another chance in their next race.

For example, Slew to Siren, the second choice in the first race, never seemed able to get her feet under her. R Bertrando, at 8-5, finished last without caulks in the opener, but she was on the lead for about a half-mile and seemed to be handling the mud then.

Perfect Miss, the 5-2 second choice in the third, a maiden sprint, never picked up her feet. She figures to do better next time on different footing.

Aloha Goodbye, fifth as the 5-2 second choice in the sixth race, and Bartending Mike, seventh in the nightcap, had both shown ability, but on Sunday showed little, perhaps because of the track.

Safely Kept two-horse race

It's Bobby Frankel's world and we just live in it. While he cranks up his biggies for upcoming major stakes, he is still a major factor in some of the smaller stakes. On Sunday, the Frankel-trained Rolly Polly is very much the one to beat at Hollywood in the $70,000-added Safely Kept Handicap at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. She won this race last year and prepared for her title defense by working five furlongs in 1:02.80 Monday on a main track listed as "good."

Rolly Polly, a European import who launched her American career in this race last year, seeks to become the first repeat winner in the eight-year history of the race.

A 4-year-old Irish-bred filly, Rolly Polly is coming off a victory in the Grade 3 Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita on Oct. 12. On paper it's extremely difficult to go against her in Sunday's race, but the most probable upset candidate is Gabriellina Giof, who gets six pounds from Rolly Polly and who may be at her best sprinting on turf for trainer Ron McAnally.

Gabriellina Giof finished 10th behind Rolly Polly in the Maddy, but may well have been compromised by being close to the pace early, which goes against her usual style. She was then in traffic between horses and unable to muster a run. She's much better than that race indicates.

Gabriellina Giof finished fourth on this course and at the Safely Kept distance in the Great Lady M. Handicap in July, and she won her U.S. debut on this course and at this distance in the Manhattan Beach in June 2001.

With that in mind the play here might be a big exacta, Rolly Polly over Gabriellina Giof, then a smaller exacta, Gabriellina Giof over Rolly Polly.