12/14/2004 1:00AM

Road warrior makes a rare start at home


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The well-traveled Excessivepleasure, who has been off since April, begins his newest travelog right at home at Hollywood Park on Thursday when he returns in the featured second race, an optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles that carries a $46,000 purse.

That's chump change for Excessivepleasure, who last year won derbies at Sunland Park, Prairie Meadows, and Hoosier Park, helping to boost his earnings past the $1 million mark. But there's big dollar signs dangling out there. is using Thursday's race as a prep for next month's Sunshine Millions, according to trainer Doug O'Neill, so he could be off to Florida in a few weeks.

"I don't think he'll be at his best, but this will give him something to build on," O'Neill said Tuesday.

Excessivepleasure has been off since he chipped a knee when he finished second in the Tiznow Stakes at Hollywood Park. He was in need of a rest anyway, having traveled to Iowa, New Jersey, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Dubai in the previous 10 months. He has a brief work tab for Thursday's comeback, but O'Neill said that is misleading.

"He was at Magali Farms with Tom Hudson, and Tom put a great foundation under him," O'Neill said. "He's doing fantastic."

Excessivepleasure's main rival figures to be Verkade, who is the only horse in the race entered for the $80,000 claiming price. He also carries top weight of 123 pounds. most recently finished second in a similar race to Truly a Judge, who subsequently won the Native Diver Handicap.

, a Group 2 winner in his native Argentina, makes his first start in this country. Trainer Kristin Mulhall believes the colt will need more distance.

Also Thursday, turf racing returns to Hollywood Park, and not a moment too soon for the Brazilian import Nikinipo, who makes his first start in this country after winning twice in three turf starts in his native land.

Nikinipo closed out his Brazilian campaign with a romping, 7 3/4-length victory in a five-furlong Group 3 grass race, in which he was clocked in a wickedly fast 54.60 seconds. He is now trained by another Brazilian native, Paulo Lobo, who sends out Nikinipo in the seventh race at 5 1/2 furlongs.

Turf racing had been suspended at Hollywood Park since midway through Saturday's card, when jockeys complained the course was too soft in spots.