06/09/2005 12:00AM

Red Fort zeroes in on Whittingham


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Saturday's $350,000 at Hollywood Park has been the goal for Red Fort all year.

A win in an allowance race at Santa Anita in March and a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Inglewood Handicap here in April were only the prologue to a summer campaign that owner Walter Swinburn and trainer Neil Drysdale hope will include the Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar and the Arlington Million at Arlington Park.

"That's the plan," Drysdale said. "Whether he can execute it is another matter."

In the Whittingham, Red Fort will be favored in a field that includes Pellegrino, who won the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup here last December; Stanley Park, who won the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap at Santa Anita in March; and Sweet Return, the winner of the 2004 Frank Kilroe Mile who is winless in his last eight starts.

Red Fort is seeking his first stakes win since the Wolferton Handicap at the 2004 Royal Ascot meeting. Like the Wolferton, the Whittingham is run over 1 1/4 miles on turf.

A 5-year-old gelding, Red Fort has won 4 of 11 starts, but has yet to win a group or graded stakes. Drysdale is quick to give Red Fort credit for his performance in England last year and in the Inglewood.

"I would say winning at Royal Ascot is like winning a group race," he said.

In the Inglewood, Red Fort rallied from last in a six-horse field to miss by a nose against stablemate King of Happiness. Red Fort tends to run closer to the pace, though, than he did in the Inglewood, which was run over 1 1/16 miles on turf.

The distance of the Whittingham should work to the advantage of Just Wonder, Stanley Park, and Vangelis.

Just Wonder finished third in the Inglewood and the 2004 Whittingham. Trained by Laura de Seroux, Just Wonder is winless in seven starts since the 2003 Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap over this course.

Stanley Park will be trying to give owners Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer John Shirreffs a unique double Saturday, when they also start Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo in the Belmont Stakes. A 5-year-old, Stanley Park won the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf March 27, but was only fourth in the San Juan Capistrano Handicap over about 1 3/4 miles April 16.

Shirreffs said the quick turnaround and the longer distance of the San Juan may have worked against Stanley Park. He held Stanley Park out of the Jim Murray Memorial Handicap on May 14 in favor of Saturday's race.

Vangelis, trained by Bobby Frankel, finished second in the Jim Murray over 1 1/2 miles after leading by two lengths in early stretch. Fourth in the 2004 Whittingham, Vangelis is winless in five starts in the U.S., but did win two group stakes over 1 1/4 miles on turf in France in 2003 and 2004.