12/05/2003 12:00AM

Sparkling Ava part of Inda's new crew


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Trainer Eduardo Inda was down to four horses in August when he won an allowance race at Del Mar that sparked a four-race winning streak.

For Inda, who trained champion older female Riboletta in 2000, the wins provided a much-needed boost to his confidence and his stature in the sport.

Through the fall, Inda's stable has slowly grown to 10, including Sparkling Ava, who starts in Sunday's $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood Park.

"I was down a little bit," he said. "I won four in a row, and that really helped."

Sparkling Ava will not be confused with Riboletta, who won such major stakes as the Beldame, Milady, Ruffian, and Vanity in 2000.

Sparkling Ava was stakes-placed at Gulfstream Park in March but was well-beaten in three consecutive starts in New York from June to October. She is owned by Barry Schwartz, a longtime client of Inda's and the chairman of the New York Racing Association.

"Barry wanted to change her routine and see what happens," Inda said of the transfer.

Sparkling Ava was seventh in the Iroquois Handicap on New York Showcase Day on Oct. 18. She was essentially eliminated after a poor start.

"I've schooled her twice and we've had no problems, but she has a reputation at the gate," Inda said. "So far, she's been good. She can run on dirt or grass. She's been very good working at Santa Anita."

The Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap will be Sparkling Ava's first start in a graded race since she finished sixth in the Grade 3 Suwannee River Handicap at Gulfstream Park last March. The Bayakoa is led by Adoration, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita in October.

"We're in a tough race," Inda said. "I like her chances, but I know Adoration is tough. She's one of the best fillies in America right now."

Inda, 50, would like to see his stable double in size and says he will have an active barn at the Santa Anita winter meeting that begins on Dec. 26. A breakup with owners Aaron and Marie Jones earlier this year took its toll on his stable.

"I felt bad about it," Inda said. "He was a good owner. Mr. and Mrs. Jones were good to me. They keep most of their good horses in New York now."

Inda said that he has resumed training for owner Stanley Bell after a break of several years. They won the 1997 A Gleam Handicap with Toga Toga Toga.

Also, Inda says that Schwartz wants to have a presence in Southern California racing.

"Barry has been good to me," Inda said. "He wants to claim horses, but I'd like to wait until I see something I'd really like."

'Pictures' gives trainer first win

A surprise victory by Imgunabeinpictures in Thursday's third race produced the longest win price of the meeting - $143.20 - and milestones for trainer Martin Contreras and jockey Kerwin John.

The win was the first in the career of Contreras and the first at Hollywood Park for John, a native of the Virgin Islands.

Contreras, 40, was issued a trainer's license a few months ago. He said he has been an exercise rider for the past 20 years. "I'm a late bloomer," he said.

Imgunabeinpictures joined his three-horse stable in early November. She is owned by Felix Hernandez, a former trainer who has retired, Contreras said.

Imgunabeinpictures won her first race of the year in her 14th start. Contreras said the key was shortening her up from a mile to 5 1/2 furlongs.

"She had a late kick, so we wanted to keep it short," Contreras said. "I didn't think she'd run that good of a race."

Medaglia d'Oro points for Dubai

Medaglia d'Oro breezed a half-mile in 52.20 seconds on a foggy morning at Hollywood Park on Friday, a slow workout that did not concern trainer Bobby Frankel. "He was just galloping," Frankel said.

Second in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, Medaglia d'Oro will make his next start in the San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita on Jan. 31 or the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park in early February, Frankel said.

The long-term goal is the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 27.

"In my mind right now, he's going to Dubai," Frankel said.

Frankel considered the Dubai World Cup earlier this year for Medaglia d'Oro but did not send the 4-year-old after he failed to eat well in advance of the travel date.

Medaglia d'Oro has been one of the top handicap horses in the nation this year, winning the Strub Stakes and the Oaklawn and Whitney handicaps.

Cal Cup card's sprinters to face off

Green Team and Coconut Mango, the winners of sprint stakes on the California Cup program at Santa Anita on Nov. 8, are probables for the $95,000 On Trust Handicap on Dec. 13, one of two statebred stakes that highlight racing next weekend.

Green Team won the California Cup Sprint, while Coconut Mango won the Starter Sprint Handicap.

The On Trust is run over 7 1/2 furlongs. Other probables include Excess Summer, Grey Memo, and Hot Market.

Excess Summer, the winner of the Pomona Derby in late September, finished ninth in the Seabiscuit Handicap against older horses on Oct. 25. He was entered for the Nov. 8 California Cup Sprint but was withdrawn the day of the race.

Hot Market and Grey Memo finished one-two in the 2002 On Trust Handicap. In the California Cup Classic on Nov. 8, Grey Memo finished fourth, while Hot Market was sixth.

The $95,000 Cat's Cradle Handicap for fillies and mares over 7 1/2 furlongs on Dec. 14 will feature Brite Betty, Tucked Away, and Valentine Dancer. Tucked Away won the Fleet Treat Stakes for statebred 3-year-olds at Del Mar in July.

Sign of the Wolf sent to Powell

Sign of the Wolf, the seventh-place finisher in the Hollywood Derby last Sunday, has been transferred from French trainer Francois Rohaut to Leonard Powell, who is based at Hollywood Park.

Sign of the Wolf was near the pace for the first mile of the Hollywood Derby but faded to finish two lengths behind upset winner Sweet Return.