03/10/2003 12:00AM

Strizzi needs right trip

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Horses who rally from far back, especially in turf races, need to be both good and lucky to win.

Strizzi proved he was good when winning his grass debut by 4 1/2 lengths here Jan. 8, a performance that made him the 3-1 favorite when he returned three weeks later in the Dave Feldman Stakes. But Strizzi was unlucky in the Feldman, getting trapped behind a wall of horses before finishing only 2 1/2 lengths behind Hypnotist, who skimmed the rail.

Trainer Malcolm Pierce hopes Strizzi's fortunes will improve when the promising 3-year-old drops back into allowance company for Wednesday's $38,000 feature at Gulfstream Park. The race drew a full and very competitive field of 10 3-year-old turf specialists.

"I guess you've got to live with those kind of trips once in a while when you have a horse with his running style," Pierce said. "[Jockey Mark Guidry] wound up getting pinned down inside and then behind a wall of horses on the second turn. A hole never opened up and [Strizzi] finished under a hold while getting beat only 2 1/2 lengths. It was just bad racing luck."

Pierce realizes that Strizzi will have his work cut out despite the drop back into allowance competition. "A two-other-than for 3-year-olds at this time of year is never an easy spot," said Pierce, who again will tab Guidry for the assignment.

The other nine horses in the field have stakes experience. Three are coming out of the Palm Beach Stakes here Feb. 21. Unbridles King, Purely Classic, and Sea Pleasure finished fourth, seventh, and eighth behind Nothing to Lose in the Grade 3 Palm Beach.

Collateral Damage finished third in Keeneland's Hopemont Stake at 2. He has not started since finishing off the board in Churchill Downs' Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on dirt in his 2-year-old finale.

Russia and Irrawaddy gained stakes experience in Europe. Irrawaddy appears to be the better of the two and will make his United States debut for trainer Niall O'Callaghan. A son of Nureyev, Irrawaddy has not started since finishing sixth in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket Oct. 3.

Christmas Away returns to the turf for the first time since finishing seventh after an extended pace battle in Calder's Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby. He will wear blinkers for the first time Monday. Mr. Mississippi steps up a notch after rallying to a 1 3/4-length entry level allowance win here Feb. 16.

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