10/16/2002 12:00AM

Sligo Bay looking good off vacation


ARCADIA, Calif. - Sligo Bay earned a vacation in June after he finished off the board for the third consecutive race.

"He got a little sour on me," trainer Beau Greely said.

The vacation ends on Friday when Sligo Bay starts in a $53,000 allowance race/optional claimer over 1 1/4 miles on turf at Santa Anita. The race could lead to a start in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup over 1 1/2 miles on Nov. 23.

"He's doing really well," Greely said. "I know a mile and a quarter is a bit of ground, but ideally we're prepping for the Hollywood Turf Cup. We haven't run that far, but Sadler's Wellses usually go that far."

A 4-year-old, Sligo Bay won the Grade 3 Cinema Handicap at Hollywood Park in his U.S. debut in May 2001, but lost his next eight races. Along the way, he finished second in the Oak Tree Derby, Hollywood Derby and San Gabriel Handicap, missing by a head in the San Gabriel after a troubled trip.

At that point, Greely thought Sligo Bay would have a solid 2002 campaign, but the colt was unplaced in the Arcadia Handicap at Santa Anita in April and the Woodford Reserve Stakes at Churchill Downs in May before finishing fifth in an optional claimer that led to the vacation.

Greely said Sligo Bay was not injured.

"We took all the precautions and nothing came up," Greely said. "He was one of those horses that needed a little break. We need to get some confidence in him."

Sligo Bay does not face a strong field in Friday's third race. Venator is the likely favorite, having won an optional claimer in his last start at Del Mar. Hataab and Sicy du Barail start as $80,000 claimers and are coming off losses. Spycat starts over 1 1/4 miles for the first time, having finished seventh in a one-mile allowance race on Oct. 2.

Trompolino completes the field. The winner of the 2001 Chilean St. Leger over about 1 3/8 miles on dirt, Trompolino has been a disappointment in four starts in this country for trainer Gary Mandella. In his last start, Trompolino finished fifth at 18-1 at Del Mar on Aug. 22.

The third race is one of two allowance races on turf on Friday's eight-race program.

In the seventh race, Fun House, the runner-up in the La Habra Stakes on the hillside turf course earlier this year, heads a field of eight.

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