06/30/2005 11:00PM

Seeking a common goal

Benoit & Associates
Forest Grove will try to stretch out his speed to seven furlongs after winning the six-furlong Los Angeles Times Handicap (above) in mid-May.

It's a long way to Tipperary. For two natives of Ireland, it's even longer to Inglewood. But trainers Eoin Harty and Paddy Gallagher, who both hail from the land of Eire, will square off in Sunday's Grade 1, $350,000 Triple Bend Invitational Handicap at Hollywood Park. They send out, respectively, , who head a wide-open field of 14 runners, all of whom are seeking their first Grade 1 victory.

Both Harty and Gallagher grew up on a steady diet of long-distance turf racing, but they certainly adapted to American racing. Both worked for high-profile trainers here before going out on their own, both have been successful in their own right, and both have guided their Triple Bend runners through a renaissance period.

Harty, who apprenticed under John Russell and Bob Baffert, has seen Forest Grove develop into a top-shelf sprinter. He comes off a victory on May 14 in the six-furlong Los Angeles Times Handicap, and now will try to stretch his speed to seven furlongs in the Triple Bend. He was second in the Count Fleet at Oaklawn earlier this year, a race that first convinced Harty that Forest Grove could race against the best dirt sprinters.

"He ran a huge race. That told me he was a legitimate sprinter," Harty said Friday morning. "So we took a shot in the L.A. Times, and he ran huge."

Harty added a blinker cup for Forest Grove's right eye for the L.A. Times.

"He has a tendency to get out, more so in his works than in the afternoon," Harty said. "He went straight as an arrow last time. He's training great, but this is a Group 1. He's going to have to bring his 'A' game."

Gallagher, who worked for John Sullivan and Bill Shoemaker before going out on his own, took over as the trainer of McCann's Mojave when Leonard Dorfman retired. In his first start for Gallagher, McCann's Mojave ran his best race in more than a year, winning the Ack Ack Handicap to snap a four-race losing streak.

"This is a little close, coming back in 22 days, but he's worked good a couple of times since the race," Gallagher said Friday.

McCann's Mojave has won 6 of 11 starts. The Ack Ack marked his first race at Hollywood Park. Gallagher is based at Santa Anita.

"He seems to be one of those horses who does well wherever he goes," Gallagher said. "He ran well back East for Leonard. He's fine, once he knows the lay of the land. I brought him over to Hollywood already."

Trainer Doug O'Neill sends out two top contenders in Areyoutalkintome and Harvard Avenue. Areyoutalkintome finished quickly to be second to Forest Grove in the L.A. Times, and now gets an additional furlong. Harvard Avenue is a terrific one-run sprinter who won the Potrero Grande at Santa Anita earlier this year.

Mass Media was sent West by trainer Bobby Frankel. He has been a disappointment in some of his recent races, but comes off a third-place finish in the True North on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

"I thought he ran very well last time," Frankel said from New York. "It was a speed-favoring track, and he was the only one who closed well."

The field

Triple Bend Handicap
Purse: $350,000; 7 furlongs; Grade 1

1Roi CharmantV. Espinoza11530-1
2Saint BuddyR. Douglas11420-1
3Forest GroveJ. Court1187-2
4Taste of ParadiseA. Solis11630-1
5Harvard AvenueG. Gomez1178-1
6TsiganeD. Flores11512-1
7Saint AfleetP. Valenzuela11610-1
8Mass MediaJ. Velazquez1163-1
9AreyoutalkintomeT. Baze1179-2
10Bear in the WoodsA. Bisono11250-1
11St AverilK. Desormeaux11430-1
12McCann's MojaveJ. Valdivia Jr.11710-1
13Ender's ShadowG. Stevens11612-1
14Unfurl the FlagC. Nakatani11512-1

* Odds by Art Gropper