03/04/2004 1:00AM

Sweet Return lands toughest spot in Kilroe


ARCADIA, Calif. - Sweet Return's luck may have run out when post positions were drawn for Saturday's $350,000 Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita.

The winner of the Hollywood Derby and San Marcos Stakes in recent months, drew the outside post in the 14-horse field in the Kilroe, which is run on turf. Trainer Ron McAnally said winning from there will be difficult.

"It's a bad post," McAnally said.

Other top contenders also have flaws in their game plans, making the Kilroe a wide-open race.

Designed for Luck, who won the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile last October, also drew wide - in post 11 - while Sarafan, who has earned $2.3 million, is making his first start since November and may need the race.

With those three compromised, the chances of starters such as Inesperado, Irish Warrior, and Singletary have increased.

Singletary is coming off a one-length win over Inesperado in the minor Thunder Road Handicap on Feb. 11. It was Singletary's first start since a fifth-place finish in the Del Mar Derby last September.

Last year, Singletary raced near the front, but closed from sixth in the one-mile Thunder Road Handicap.

"I'm pretty confident in my horse," trainer Don Chatlos said. "He's better this year than last year. He's a lot bigger and stronger. He's put on 150 pounds since last year."

Singletary will be ridden by Jose Valdivia, Jr., who replaces Victor Espinoza. Espinoza is booked on Sarafan.

"Jose knows where to sit," Chatlos said. "We'll try to get the same kind of trip. He won't blast off like he did last year. With these older horses, you won't win many races like that."

Irish Warrior was fourth in the Breeders' Cup Mile last October and a game second to Redattore

in the Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park a month later. He won his only start this year, the $150,000 Turf Paradise Breeders' Cup Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on turf Feb. 7.

Irish Warrior drew the rail for the Kilroe, but is a closer. It is not an ideal post for a horse who must weave his way through most of the field to have any chance.

Designed for Luck finished seventh in the Breeders' Cup Mile and Thunder Road Handicap. In the Thunder Road, he raced without blinkers, was wide on both turns, and offered no fight in the stretch.

Designed for Luck will wear blinkers in the Kilroe - he wore them all of last year - and will be ridden for the first time by Tyler Baze. Trainer Vladimir Cerin is hoping that Baze can save ground until the field reaches the backstretch and then engage the leaders.

"The post doesn't help him, but I think there is enough speed," Cerin said. "I think he can get over."

Sweet Return and jockey Gary Stevens will have a more difficult job. Sweet Return typically races on or near the lead. To maintain that style, he may have to take a wide path.

"He doesn't need the lead," McAnally said. "I'll let Gary use his own judgment."