03/06/2004 12:00AM

Sweet Return rallies to take Kilroe Mile

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ARCADIA, Calif. - An outside post was seen as a hindrance to Sweet Return's chances in Saturday's $350,000 at Santa Anita. It turned out to be an ideal draw for a stalking trip that led to Sweet Return's third consecutive graded stakes win.

Benefiting from a patient ride from Gary Stevens, Sweet Return rallied from seventh in a 14-horse field to win the Grade 2 Kilroe by a half-length over Singletary. Sweet Return ($21.60) finished a mile on turf in 1:33.87.

Despite the wide post, Stevens angled Sweet Return closer to the inside early, raced off the rail in seventh until the end of the backstretch and reached contention with a wide rally on the final turn.

Stevens and trainer Ron McAnally had discussed strategy before the race and reached the same conclusion.

"You've got to have a little luck going into the first turn from that position," McAnally said.

Sweet Return engaged Designed for Luck near the eighth pole and held off a stubborn Singletary late.

"He was very relaxed and keeping pace without being asked," Stevens said. "When we straightened into the stretch, there was no horse with a bigger kick than this horse."

Inesperado closed from ninth to finish third, followed by Sarafan, Designed for Luck, Buckland Manor (the 3-1 favorite), Apache Wings, Needwood Blade, Statement, Irish Warrior, Geronimo, Golden Dragon, Wixoe Express, and Rock n Rosh.

Sweet Return, 4, has won 5 of 16 starts and $823,031. Owned by John Brunetti, Sweet Return won the Hollywood Derby at 16-1 last November and the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes at nearly 7-1 in January.