03/22/2002 12:00AM

Sir Bear vs. Red Bullet set next week

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Gulfstream Park racing Secretary Dave Bailey may have to call in a few favors to get as many as six entrants in the starting gate for next Saturday's $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap. Only 11 horses were nominated for the Grade 1 race, and as of Friday only defending champ Sir Bear and Red Bullet had been confirmed as starters.

Trainer H. James Bond said he wanted to see the weights for the race before deciding whether to run Mongoose here or in the Grade 1 Oaklawn Handicap the following Saturday. With a small field almost a certainty, however, Mongoose, winner of the Grade 1 Donn Handicap here last month, will likely join Sir Bear and Red Bullet in the starting gate for the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Hal's Hope and Saint Damien are the only other potential starters at this time.

Two nominees unlikely to make the starting lineup are Parade Leader and Scottish Halo.

Trainer Neil Howard said he "never rules anything out," but doubts that he would ship Parade Leader down from his Fair Grounds base for the Gulfstream Park Handicap. The vastly improved Parade Leader, a son of Kingmambo, is coming off a 5 1/4-length victory in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap that earned him a career best 114 Beyer Speed Figure.

"If he had run a time or two less this winter I might consider it," said Howard. "But he's already run four times, each of those races about three weeks apart, and he's going to need a rest at some point. He's like a different horse right now, and I just don't want to overdo it with him. He came out of his last race good but was pretty tired for a few days, and running back on Saturday would just be too quick. At the moment I'm pointing him for a smaller race, the Ben Ali Handicap [on April 21] at Keeneland."

Trainer Paul Rizzo dead at 49

Scottish Halo, who has not started since winning the Empire Classic Handicap for New York-breds on Oct. 21, was trained by Paul Rizzo, who died Wednesday after a long fight with cancer.

Rizzo, 49, trained Scottish Halo for John Oxley. He also had a half-dozen horses in his barn at Palm Beach Downs for Debby Oxley, including six-time stakes winner and two-time Mid-Atlantic Match Series winner Superduper Miss.

Rizzo had won two races from 11 starters here this winter. Overall, he won 30 races from 226 starters in his brief but successful training career. Rizzo was also a world-class polo player and a member of the U.S. national polo team.

"Scottish Halo definitely won't run on Saturday," said Rizzo's wife, Ella. "Other than that I'm not sure what the plans are for the horses. I'm going to sit down with the Oxleys and discuss the future with them tomorrow [Friday]."

In addition to his wife, Rizzo is survived by a son, Gary.

Funeral services will be held on Monday at St. Rita's Catholic Church in Wellington, Fla.

Thunder Blitz nearing return

Thunder Blitz worked a bullet six furlongs in 1:12.20 on Friday, moving closer to returning to the races.

Thunder Blitz, winner of the Grade 3 Flamingo Stakes at Hialeah last April and fourth in the Kentucky Derby, last started when finishing third behind Western Pride in the West Virginia Derby on Aug. 11.

Windsor Castle, who rallied from last to finish third behind Hal's Hope in the Creme Fraiche Handicap earlier this month, also earned a bullet on Friday's tab, working five furlongs in 59.40 for trainer Frank Alexander.