05/28/2004 11:00PM

Singletary guns for Grade 1

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - was merely an honest 3-year-old last summer when trainer Don Chatlos circled May 31 on his calendar and hatched an ambitious plan. It called for Singletary to freshen over the winter before taking aim at the most prestigious turf mile of the California racing season.

Monday at Hollywood Park, Singletary is poised to deliver in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile, a $350,000 race that Chatlos calls "our Breeders' Cup." The field includes Grade 1 winner Sweet Return, course record-holder Leroidesanimaux, Grade 2 winner , sprinters Glick and Tsigane, closers King of Happiness and Dell Place, and comebacker Momentum.

In addition to the Shoemaker, seventh race on the card, there is plenty happening Monday at Hollywood. The Grade 1 Gamely Handicap, race 2, features Megahertz and three other grass fillies and mares. In race 8, Buddy Gil will be favored to win the $75,000 Ack Ack Handicap at 7 1/2 furlongs. The card also includes a $1 million guaranteed pick six pool on races 5-10.

Sweet Return will start as the deserving Shoemaker Mile favorite, but Singletary is not far behind. Owned by Little Red Feather Racing, Singletary has won five races and $442,132 from 13 starts. He enters off a win in the Grade 2 San Francisco Breeders' Cup at Bay Meadows, and has trained super for his first Grade 1 try.

To win under jockey Jose Valdivia, Singletary needs two things, Chatlos said: "A little bit of pace in front of him, and first run on Sweet Return." When they last met, Sweet Return won after getting the jump on Singletary.

"Sweet Return is too good of a horse to let that happen," said Chatlos.

Sweet Return has emerged as a top turf horse for trainer Ron McAnally, with wins in a Grade 1 and two Grade 2's under various conditions, including at a mile. Last out on May 1, Sweet Return was second in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs.

"He's the ideal kind of horse," said McAnally. "He can be on the lead or come from behind. The turf can be soft or hard. He can win at a mile, a mile and an eighth, or a mile and a quarter."

Victor Espinoza rides Sweet Return for the first time. He will rally from behind, and there is plenty of pace. Designed for Luck drew post 9 and must use his speed to establish position; front-runners Leroidesanimaux, Glick, and Tsigane help ensure honest fractions.