11/19/2002 1:00AM

Seeking a Prevue, Turf Cup double


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Trainer Rafael Becerra aims for an unlikely stakes double Saturday at Hollywood Park with a 2-year-old sprinter and a 4-year-old turf runner. Roll Hennessy Roll, whose first three starts were in New Mexico, is a leading contender in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue at seven furlongs. Special Matter, a former $12,500 claimer who won a Grade 3 race, runs 1 1/2 miles in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup.

The only trainer with nominees in both races, Becerra likes his position. "I'm very happy with the way things are going," Becerra said. "The horses are doing good, that's the important thing."

A longtime assistant to retired trainer Gary Jones, Becerra is having a breakout year with 20 wins and earnings of $794,656 from 98 starters. Becerra's work ethic was in full display on Tuesday.

He was at Hollywood Park before 5 a.m. to tend to four horses and supervise a three-furlong work by Roll Hennessy Roll. After that, Becerra hopped on the freeway, and drove the 30 miles to Santa Anita, where his main stable is based. Becerra patterned the routine after his former boss. Jones also split his mornings between both tracks.

"I learned from Gary," Becerra said. "It's tough, but you have to do it."

Roll Hennessy Roll won his first three starts in New Mexico, and finished third in the Sunny Slope Stakes Oct. 19 at Santa Anita. Becerra shipped him to Hollywood last week to familiarize him with the deeper track. Roll Hennessy Roll will add blinkers Saturday to "get his mind in the game," according to Becerra.

Special Matter, claimed by Becerra for $12,500 in May, has won three of his last four starts, including the Grade 3 Carleton F. Burke on Oct. 27. The competition steepens Saturday in the Turf Cup, but Becerra said "for $250,000, I'll take a shot."

In addition to Roll Hennessy Roll and Special Matter, Becerra is pointing a pair of Cal-bred 2-year-olds to bigger races.

Buttertart, runner-up in the California Cup Juvenile Fillies, may run Dec. 14 in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet. Cal Cup Juvenile winner Crackup will either ship to Sam Houston for the Great State Challenge on Dec. 7, or wait for opening day of the Santa Anita winter meet Dec. 26 and run in the $125,000 California Breeders' Champion Stakes.

Rahy Vision vs. small field in Prevue

The promising 2-year-old Rahy Vision is racing in a sprint, although his trainer Ron Ellis said, "he's definitely not a sprinter."

Rahy Vision makes his third start, Saturday in the Hollywood Prevue, a race Ellis believes will provide a beneficial segue to longer races. "We're looking at the big picture, figuring he wants to run farther. If everything goes right, he'll be on a once-a-month pattern."

Rahy Vision beat maidens going 6 1/2 furlongs Oct. 13 at Santa Anita, earning an ordinary Beyer Speed Figure of 78. The longer, the better according to Ellis. "He's a real relaxed horse. Mentally, he's like an older horse, and I think he's good enough to run in [winter stakes races]," Ellis said.

Rahy Vision, owned by B. Wayne Hughes, worked five furlongs Tuesday at Santa Anita, in 1:00.20. He will face a small field in the Prevue. In addition to Rahy Vision and Roll Hennessy Roll, possible starters include the Bob Baffert-trained Sailnwithcaptain and late-running sprinter Hell Cat.

Ellis is pointing Hughes-owned Malabar Gold for the Grade 3 Hollywood Turf Express on Nov. 29. The 5 1/2-furlong turf race is expected to be Malabar Gold's final start. A graded stakes winner, he has won

6 of 14 starts and earned $301,621. He will stand stud next spring in Kentucky. Graded stakes-placed No Armistice is on the comeback trail after throat surgery for a breathing disorder. Ellis expects the 4-for-11 sprinter to be ready late this year, or early 2003.

No Hollywood Starlet for Puxa Saco

Puxa Saco, winner of the Moccasin Stakes on Saturday at Hollywood Park, will not race again at the Hollywood fall meet. While the seven-furlong Moccasin is often a prep for the 1 1/16-mile Hollywood Starlet, trainer Jenine Sahadi said, "it's back [too soon], and she's a little filly. She's got her whole life in front of her. I can try her two turns in six months."

Puxa Saco will sprint next, early in the Santa Anita winter meet.

Cetewayo shipping in for Turf Cup

Grade 1 winner Cetewayo will ship to California for the Hollywood Turf Cup on Saturday. Trainer Michael Dickinson has given jockey Mike Smith the call on the 8-year-old, who has won 11 races and more than $1.1 million from 28 starts. Other probable Turf Cup starters include Chiselling, Delta Form, Grammarian, Hannibal Lad, Nazirali, Sligo Bay, Special Matter, and Williams News.

- Congaree blazed six furlongs Tuesday at Santa Anita in 1:09.80 - 2.60 seconds faster than the next-fastest of 21 works at the distance. "He's really training awesome right now. I mean really awesome," trainer Bob Baffert said. Congaree runs Nov. 30 in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile. Baffert said Jerry Bailey will ride.

- Storm Gulch, a 2-year-old by Gulch who was purchased privately by Michael Tabor and transferred to trainer Pat Biancone after a runaway maiden win at Keeneland, worked five furlongs Tuesday in 1:00. Storm Gulch is nominated to the Prevue, and Biancone said a decision to run would be made later this week. Storm Gulch's pedigree is similar to that of Tabor's Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch - a son of Gulch, out of a Storm Bird mare. Storm Gulch earned an 89 Beyer in his Oct. 23 maiden win which was his second start.

- Eugene Sylvester Mandella, the father of Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, passed away Nov. 12 in Ashton, Idaho, at age 79. He died of natural causes at the Ashton Memorial Nursing Home. "Gene" Mandella, born Jan. 6, 1923 in Joliet, Ill., was a blacksmith, and he gave Richard Mandella with his introduction to horses. "He gave me a good foundation," Richard said. "He was a very good horseman and a good man for the basics, which is the most important part of this business."