05/19/2003 11:00PM

Redemption for Savonarola?


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The blue silks have been replaced by maroon, and the colt's owner is now listed as Darley Stud Management, rather than Godolphin Racing Inc. But unless Savonarola is better than last year, it won't make any difference who owns him when he runs in a good allowance race Thursday at Hollywood Park.

Eoin Harty - private trainer for the Maktoum family of Dubai - has returned to California with a new crop of 2-year-olds. This season, they arrived with support. Though the Godolphin push remains 2-year-olds, the stable sent older horses back to the United States to race under the ownership of Darley Stud. The first of those - Savonarola - runs in a mile turf allowance for 3-year-olds.

The name should ring a bell. Savonarola started three times last year in California and performed below parimutuel expectations each time. He lost his debut by more than seven lengths at 8-5, then finished fourth at 7-2, then next-to-last at 5-2 on Oct. 6. By then, the Godolphin experiment had been written off as a veritable disaster, and the stable returned to Dubai for winter, having won one race from 11 starters in Southern California.

Overall, Godolphin and Harty won seven races from 40 U.S. starters last year. The outfit went 1-for-4 in New York, 1 for 4 at Bay Meadows, and 4 for 21 at Arlington. While many of Godolphin's horses got sick last year, its record underscores how tough it is to win in Southern California. It won't get any easier this year; Savonarola runs in a good field.

Savonarola won a maiden race in his only start this year, May 13 at Nad Al Sheba in Dubai. His workouts since returning to the United States have been strong, as they were last year. To win, Savonarola and jockey Pat Valenzuela must turn back the colt drawn to their outside - Dawson Trail. Purchased for $1 million as a 2-year-old by Michael Tabor, Dawson Trail scored a clever win April 19 in a maiden sprint at Santa Anita.

Gary Stevens rides Dawson Trail, a Neil Drysdale-trained son of Seeking the Gold, whose even-paced style should lead to a good trip setting or pressing the pace from post 2. The Hollywood turf course has continued to favor horses with speed, and Dawson Trail has plenty of that.

The remainder of the field includes Slew City Citadel, whom Valenzuela abandoned in favor of Savonarola; claimer Royal Place; dropper Gentlestone; and improving Atouratoura. Longshots are Beyond Infinity, Six Numbers, and Risk Reward.