07/15/2005 12:00AM

Runaway Dancer sharp off Murray


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Stretch-runner Runaway Dancer and front-runner T. H. Approval reverse parimutuel roles when they meet for the second time Sunday in the Grade 2 Sunset Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on the Hollywood Park turf.

finished a dull fifth at 4-1. In the $150,000 Sunset on Sunday, Runaway Dancer will try to show that win was legitimate; T.H. Approval will try to show his Jim Murray washout was a fluke.

Eight older horses entered the Sunset on closing day of the spring-summer meet at Hollywood.

Summer racing continues Wednesday at Del Mar, but not before the Sunset sorts out the marathon turf division. In addition to Runaway Dancer and T.H. Approval, the Sunset field includes Balustrade, Continuously, Always First, One Off, Hatif, and R McLennen.

Nobody in the Sunset field is a star, but at age 6, Runaway Dancer is running like a new horse. In his second start back from a layoff, on May 14, he rallied from last to win the 12-furlong Jim Murray going away. Now two months later, trainer Dan Hendricks expects more of the same.

"He needs time between races, and he's coming up to the race really well," Hendricks said.

The Jim Murray was the sixth win in 22 starts for Runaway Dancer, who had been off for nine months before returning in April.

"When he came back this year he seemed to be a freer mover, a sounder horse that enjoyed training more," Hendricks said. "By sounder, I mean his feet were stinging him a little last year, that's all."

Runaway Dancer will be ridden by Garrett Gomez, who entered the weekend leading the jockey standings by three victories over Alex Solis. Runaway Dancer should reproduce his top form Sunday, but he also will get a better fight from T.H. Approval, whose dull Jim Murray may have been a case of post-San Juan Capistrano blues. T.H. Approval won the 1 3/4-mile San Juan on April 16 at Santa Anita, but he was still not himself one month later.

After the San Juan, said trainer Eduardo Inda, "you have to give them some time off; I know that now."

T.H. Approval has won 4 of 18, and Inda said the two-month break has revived the gray. "He's got a lot of life again," Inda said.