06/11/2002 12:00AM

Sans stumble, Moro's the one

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - A bad start provides a perfect alibi for a 3-year-old front-runner.

Royal Moro stumbled badly at the start of a Grade 2 sprint last out, and finished a disappointing fourth. On Thursday, Royal Moro races seven furlongs in a one-other-than allowance at Hollywood Park, and if his stumble was nothing more than bad luck, he will make an impact in race 6.

Royal Moro's miscue in the Laz Barrera was as severe as War Emblem's stumble in the Belmont. While one cannot assume either front-runner would have won, the truth is that neither had a chance. So why do horses stumble?

A horse may be unprepared, leaning backward at the start. Or, he may meet interference by the assistant starter. Other contributory factors, however, are related to a horse's physical health. Horses with hind-end problems are habitual slow starters. A horse with front-end problems may feel pain the first stride, then stumble. Some speculate a sore horse thinks about the pain he is about to experience, and stumbles after the gate opens.

"It could be a number of different factors," said Royal Moro's trainer Craig Dollase. "Sometimes there are reasons, like being sore behind. Sometimes, the ground just breaks out from underneath. Sometimes, horses just outbreak themselves."

Dollase speculates that is what happened to Royal Moro. Instead of forcing the pace, he nearly fell on his face. "Pat [Valenzuela] almost fell off, but [Royal Moro] came out of it unscathed, so we're back in," Dollase said.

Dollase's concern is wheeling back just 17 days after the Barrera. Royal Moro ran races this winter that would drill the allowance field he meets Thursday, and Dollase's 25 percent success rate at the meet is more reason to consider the gray Royal Moro.

Garret Gomez takes over on Royal Moro; Valenzuela switches to Primerica for Wally Dollase, Craig Dollase's father.

To win the race, Royal Moro must break well from post 2, then cope with pace pressure from the outside. It won't be easy, because Doc's Allowance and Timely Action are fresh from smashing maiden wins. Doc's Allowance was particularly impressive winning by three lengths, and from his outside post he enters with a tactical advantage. He is trained by Nick Canani.

Timely Action returned from an eight-month layoff to drill maidens by five lengths. The Richard Mandella-trained colt earned a 99 Beyer, the best last-race Beyer in the field. Eggbert and Music's Storm complete the field.

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