12/31/2004 12:00AM

Revello will appreciate the cutback

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PHOENIX - Revello's connections are hoping he is an example of a horse who didn't stay the trip.

When the California-bred ran in a seven-furlong optional claiming race at Hollywood on Dec. 12, he pressed the pace, took the lead on the turn, and looked ready to extend the lead in midstretch. Things didn't quite work that way, however, as Revello weakened in the final furlong, ending up third. He had run a similar race in the seven-furlong Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood last summer, that time stalking, then swooping to the lead in midstretch as if he were going to draw off, then shortening his stride.

Ted West, father of Ted H. West, who is the trainer of Revello, believes distance was Revello's undoing in both races, so he is eagerly awaiting Sunday's El Conejo Handicap at Santa Anita. The Grade 2 sprint is at 5 1/2 furlongs, and Ted West believes that's in Revello's wheelhouse.

"Seven furlongs is not his best distance," West said.

In addition, the Dec. 12 race was the first race for Revello in three months, "so he should be tough in here," West said.

Revello, 7, has been a revelation for the Wests. As with his wonderful veteran stablemate Bluesthestandard, Revello was acquired via the claim box. West got him for $40,000 at Santa Anita on March 4 for owner Jeffrey Sengara, the same man for whom West claimed Bluesthestandard.

Since then, Revello has won only once, but he also has finished third in the California Sprint Championship, third in the Grade 1 Triple Bend and fourth in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby. In the win, against optional claimers, he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 110. His third in the Triple Bend netted him a Beyer of 100, so he's got some ammunition. His record is now 22-5-4-6 with earnings over $288,000, and indications are it will be enhanced on Sunday.

It won't be easy, of course, as there are others who figure to like the distance. Hombre Rapido is one of the quickest horses on the grounds. Areyoutalkintome is a proven competitor against the best California-breds. McCann's Mojave showed freaky-big potential last year and might deliver, while Woke Up Dreamin woke up running for trainer Bob Baffert with some strong recent form.

Another potential boost for Revello could be the weather. He has yet to race on any going except fast, but he's bred to excel in the wet stuff. His sire, Memo, could run on anything and seems to have passed that trait on to his offspring.

So without the real heavyweights - such as Cajun Beat, or Kela, or Bluesthestandard - this race is one in which Revello can take center stage.

Meanwhile, West, who also trains Bluesthestandard, said that Bluesthestandard - second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita in 2003 - is being pointed for the Grade 2, $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap at six furlongs at Santa Anita on Jan. 23.

Hats off to Paulson and Lukas

When it comes to the retirement of a major horse, an owner can get skewered regardless of which way he goes. Retire the horse too soon and you've robbed the fans, people cry. Retire the horse too late and some will say you're cruel.

Which brings me to Michael Paulson and Azeri. After a tendon problem was detected at the end of Azeri's 2003 season, many believed she had done enough and that it was time to retire her. But Paulson decided she could still race and showed courage to keep her in training, sending her to D. Wayne Lukas.

There was plenty of downside to a 2004 campaign. If she were to come back and run poorly, Paulson and Lukas would be severely criticized. If she were to come back and get hurt, they would practically have to go into hiding.

Fortunately neither occurred. The result was a third straight Apple Blossom victory for Azeri and more displays of her greatness. Her 2004 season might well earn her a third straight Eclipse as champion racemare.

Now she gets her retirement and the chance to breed. It's was a blessing to have her on the track for another campaign, and it should not be lost that two brave men who knew the risks involved were the ones responsible for giving us an added year of Azeri joy.