05/07/2003 11:00PM

Seeking to restore lost luster

Email

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The tattered reputations of several stakes winners from recent seasons can be restored with a win in Saturday's $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at Hollywood Park.

At various points of their careers, Fleetstreet Dancer, Lethal Instrument, Palmeiro, Piensa Sonando, Sunday Break, Total Impact, and Wooden Phone appeared on the verge of breaking into Grade 1 company.

All faltered, some worse than others. Injuries have limited Wooden Phone to three starts in 18 months. Piensa Sonando and Sunday Break have shown erratic form in recent starts.

A good race by any of those horses in the Grade 2 LeRoy Handicap, run over 1 1/16 miles, could lead to a start in the $400,000 Californian Stakes on June 14 or the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 13.

Wooden Phone is the 118-pound highweight, but his eighth-place finish in the San Bernardino Handicap on April 5 hardly inspires confidence.

Total Impact and Fleetstreet Dancer, who finished second and third in the San Bernardino, figure to be well-bet. Total Impact closed late to miss catching race winner Western Pride by a neck. Western Pride is expected to return in the Pimlico Special on May 16.

"He ran out of room," trainer Laura de Seroux said of Total Impact's last race. "I considered the Pimlico Special. If I had gone to Pimlico, he would be 15-1. He needs to win a race."

Fleetstreet Dancer, claimed last October for $40,000, was beaten a head by Piensa Sonando in the Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park last December. Since then, Piensa Sonando is winless in four starts. Fleetstreet Dancer has lost all three of his races this year, including a sixth in the San Antonio Handicap.

"If you throw that race out, he's a hard-knocking horse," trainer Doug O'Neill said. "I think he will run great."

Sunday Break is trying to end a four-race losing streak dating back to the Peter Pan Stakes last May. He was subsequently third in the Belmont Stakes, ran poorly in two starts, then rebounded to be a close third in the Arcadia Handicap on the turf at Santa Anita on April 6.

"He put up a good performance in the Arcadia," trainer Neil Drysdale said. "I think he's back on track now."

Palmeiro should be a factor from the front. In his lone start this year, he attended a quick pace in the Berkeley Handicap at Golden Gate Fields and was beaten only 2 1/2 lengths.

"He was a little short when he ran up north, but we needed to get a race," trainer John Sadler said. "We had to get ready for this. He has run his best races over this track."