12/05/2007 1:00AM

Slam Slew returns with eye on 2008

EmailINGLEWOOD, Calif. - Slam Slew was so well-regarded during the summer that he was a leading contender for the Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar in August.

An illness prevented him from starting in that race and kept him out of training for the rest of the summer. Friday at Hollywood Park, Slam Slew returns as the favorite in an optional claimer at six furlongs, a start that trainer Richard Mandella hopes will launch a successful 3-year-old campaign in 2008.

Mandella considered Slam Slew to be one of his top 2-year-old prospects at Del Mar, an opinion that has not changed.

The illness "took a lot out of him, but he's doing well now," Mandella said. "I think he's pretty fit. I haven't ground him up for it, but I think he's fit enough."

Owned by Gerald Ford's Diamond A Racing Corp., Slam Slew has made two starts, finishing second in his debut at five furlongs at Hollywood Park on June 3 and returning to win a maiden race at 5 1/2 furlongs later that month. Slam Slew will be considered for longer races at the upcoming Santa Anita winter-spring meeting if he runs well Friday.

"Breeding-wise, there's no reason he shouldn't go forward," Mandella said.

Slam Slew faces a strong field in Friday's seventh race, which has drawn a field of nine. The cast includes High Intellect, who was fourth in the Cavonnier Stakes at Santa Anita in October and is entered for an $80,000 claiming price; the sharp maiden race winner Winsome Charm; and Sea of Pleasure, who set a two-furlong track record of 20.78 seconds at Santa Anita in March in his only start.

Trainer Mike Harrington starts Red Hot Flame, a Malek colt who beat maidens in his debut here in May and was sixth in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue Stakes on Nov. 22. He was out of training in late spring because of a knee injury, Harrington said.

"He had some good works in him before I ran him," Harrington said. "He's been good since. I'm hoping he doesn't bounce. I've always liked him. The day he broke his maiden I was quite impressed."

Sea of Pleasure was injured a month after winning a two-furlong race by four lengths on March 29. He has worked very quickly in recent weeks at Santa Anita under the direction of trainer Gary Stute.