06/16/2003 11:00PM

Solitario to break through?


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - A string of narrow losses can end for Solitario on Thursday in a $48,000 allowance sprint on turf at Hollywood Park.

Since winning a maiden race at Santa Anita in March 2002, the 5-year-old Solitario has finished second or third in five consecutive races. In his most recent start, he was third by three-quarters of a length in a first-condition allowance race over 5 1/2 furlongs on turf on May 10. Sent off as the favorite, Solitario rallied from third to lead briefly before being passed by Royal Robe and Flirt with Fortune.

Trainer Mike Machowsky has noted improvement in Solitario in recent weeks.

"He's doing as good as he's ever done," Machowsky said. "We've had a chiropractor working with him. He's always had little things nagging him. In the last few weeks, he's gotten better."

Solitario breaks from post 3 with Flirt With Fortune and Vespasian to his inside and Sweepingly and Shadow of Illinois drawn to his outside.

Flirt With Fortune was cross-entered in an allowance sprint for 3-year-olds on turf Wednesday, but is expected to start on Thursday.

Trained by Jim Chapman, Flirt With Fortune was third in the Baldwin Stakes on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita in February, and later finished unplaced in two Kentucky Derby preps - the San Felipe Stakes and Santa Anita Derby.

After finishing in front of Solitario on May 10, he finished second by two lengths as the favorite behind Hurricane Smoke in a turf sprint May 30.

Vespasian has not started since Dec. 15, when he finished sixth in an allowance race on turf here. Trained by Kathy Walsh, Vespasian made six starts in England last year, winning a maiden race at Newcastle in October.

Sweepingly is trying turf for the first time. Trained by Craig Dollase, Sweepingly won a $50,000 claiming race for maidens on May 30, finishing three lengths clear of Casas Caballo. The performance is noteworthy because Casas Caballo returned to win a six-furlong maiden race on Saturday in a rapid 1:08.50.

Shadow of Illinois, also making a turf debut, was third in an allowance race for California-breds over six furlongs May 17.

Sweepingly is likely to lead early, closely followed by Solitario and Shadow of Illinois. Vespasian and Flirt With Fortune can pose a danger if those three set too quick a pace.