05/22/2001 11:00PM

Retired Habit, as always, ready to fire


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Medium in size, above average in ability, Retired Habit probably will not win a Grade 1 anytime soon. But when he enters the starting gate for the seventh-race feature on Friday at Hollywood Park, bettors need not worry whether he will fire.

"He tries every time; he's just got heart," trainer Richard Matlow said. "He's training good, and he likes this track."

In fact, Retired Habit enters the seven-furlong race in sharp current form. One month removed from an impressive allowance win versus California-breds, Retired Habit meets open company in the one-other-than allowance. His main rivals include $25,000 claiming winner Power Wing; $50,000 claiming winner Disguys Dalimit; Savior, runner-up three weeks ago under similar conditions; and Toqueville, starting for the first time in 15 months.

Retired Habit was bred by his owner, 83-year-old Charles Gold, and made his debut last May at Hollywood Park. He won the $32,000 maiden-claimer by eight lengths, duplicated the effort against starter-allowance foes next time; then was turned out with a wrenched knee following a third-place finish.

Matlow, who has won with 27 percent of his starters (17 for 64) since the start of 2000, gave Retired Habit seven months off. Though many offspring of Mr. Integrity tend to be goofy, not so with Retired Habit. First start back, he finished second, was second again in a turf sprint, then renewed his love affair with the Hollywood Park main track by winning in 1:09.

"He's a decent-looking horse, medium-sized and not the most correct as far as conformation, but he always tries," Matlow said. Retired Habit, 3 for 6 lifetime and never off the board, can win the seven-furlong allowance by reproducing the Beyer Speed Figure of 97 he earned last out.

Expectations are slightly lower when Matlow starts 2-year-old Seven Charms in race 2. Typically one of Southern California's most efficient trainers with first-time starters, Matlow suggested Seven Charms might be in tough vs. straight maidens. "He's shown some talent," said Matlow, adding that he thought Seven Charms could win at the $40,000 claiming level.

Matlow's leading 2-year-old prospect is Thunder Lad, a colt by first-crop sire Gold Case. Owned by Merv Griffin, Matlow expects the colt to start near the end of the Hollywood spring-summer meet. Matlow has "seven or eight" 2-year-olds. His top 2-year-old of last summer, Baldwin County, will breeze five furlongs on Friday as he prepares for his first start since last summer.

While Retired Habit should win race seven, it will not be without a challenge from Disguys Dalimit. The 6-year-old gelding, trained by Jack Carava, earned outstanding pace and speed figures winning a $50,000 claiming sprint April 21, and is drawn directly outside Retired Habit.