11/22/2004 12:00AM

Salford City in U.S. debut for Biancone

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Last weekend, trainer Patrick Biancone said he wanted an easier spot than Sunday's $500,000 Hollywood Derby for Salford City's American debut.

He did not have to wait long for that request to be fulfilled.

Wednesday, starts in a $42,000 optional claimer at 1 1/4 miles on turf, the same distance as the Hollywood Derby.

The race almost did not fill. In order to fill the race, the racing department expanded the conditions on Sunday morning and made the race an optional claimer. Two more entrants were added to the field.

The optional claimer marks Salford City's first start in a race other than a stakes this year. Racing in England with trainer David Elsworth, Salford City won the Group 3 Greenham Stakes at Newbury in April, finished sixth in the

2000 Guineas, and came in fifth in the English Derby and ninth in the Coral Eclipse Stakes.

After the Coral Eclipse on July 3, Salford City was transferred to Biancone, who decided to give Salford City a break.

"He'd had a hard season, and we let him acclimate," Biancone said. "We had to do the right thing."

Salford City is one of six entrants in the optional claimer, the feature on an otherwise drab eight-race program. The card is plagued by short fields; there are 57 horses entered in eight races.

Salford City will be tested by T.H. Approval and Balestrini, the first two finishers in an allowance race on Nov. 14, and Unrivalled, who was fourth in an allowance race on Nov. 11.

ended a four-race losing streak with his recent victory. Balestrini is winless in eight starts since the Ballysax Stakes in Ireland in April 2003. He was fifth in the English Derby in 2003. Trained by Neil Drysdale, Balestrini is making his third start in a month, having finished ninth in the Grade 2 Knickerbocker Handicap at Aqueduct on Oct. 30.

Unrivalled, the winner of the Pasadena Stakes in March, was fourth in an allowance race on Nov. 11.

Californian and Stratus will be longshots and are entered to be claimed for $62,500.

Californian is making his first start for owner-trainer Jose DeLima, who purchased the 4-year-old colt for $25,000 at the Barretts October mixed sale. Previously trained by Kristin Mulhall, Californian is winless in eight starts since winning the Forerunner Stakes at Keeneland in April 2003.

Stratus is winless in five starts since capturing an allowance race here in July 2003.