12/03/2003 1:00AM

Tale of last weekend's heroes


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - They represent the yin and yang of West Coast grass racing, the world-weary old gunfighter and the proud young buck, one of them approaching the end of the line and the other just warming up.

Redattore and Sweet Return took turns in the Hollywood Park spotlight last weekend, each one putting on a show that did his people proud. Redattore, nearing the end of his 8-year-old season, rose to the challenge of Irish Warrior in the $400,000 Citation Handicap on Saturday, while Sweet Return led a dozen fellow 3-year-olds on a merry chase throughout the $600,000 Hollywood Derby under the lights late on Sunday afternoon. Julie Krone was riding them both for the first time.

The prospects for these two meeting somewhere down the line are good. Redattore drinks from the Fountain of Youth that flows beneath the barn of Richard Mandella, so a campaign at age 9 is not out of the question. Sweet Return, trained by Ron McAnally, is more a miler than a 10-furlong animal, which means that the primary goals in his 4-year-old season should be races such as the Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita and the Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park.

As it turns out, Redattore won both of those races in 2003, an accomplishment that fit nicely with past victories in the nine-furlong Eddie Read on the grass and the nine-furlong San Antonio on the dirt. With eight wins in North America and six wins in his native Brazil, he now sports a record of 14 for 31 dating back to the middle of the second Clinton administration.

"They don't make too many models like him," Mandella said with a shake of his head as he led a visitor to Redattore's Santa Anita stall.

Inside, Redattore was being lightly brushed by Jose Quevado, the only groom he has known since he came under Mandella's care during the summer of 2000, after undergoing knee surgery. At this particular moment, the horse had his ears pinned. His hind legs were shooting out left and right, and his tail was in a serious swish. Mandella just shook his head. Redattore, it seems, defines the term, "a real piece of work."

"He thinks he's in charge - no, he knows he's in charge," Mandella said. "As far as he is concerned, this barn belongs to him. Move a rake and he turns his head, wanting to know what's going on."

In appearance, the dark bay Redattore comes off the prototype of the perfect, well-proportioned racehorse. "Beautiful" is the term Mandella uses, and no one ever argues. As a grandson of Exclusive Native and Deputy Minister, Redattore fits the role of the proud, mature racing stallion.

"He can be studdish," Mandella said, "but more in a possessive way, not sexual. This is his barn, his herd. If you're doing something, you'd better check with him first, especially if it involves a mare."

Mandella indulges such behavior, because Redattore's personality fuels his game. At his best, when his occasional foot trouble is under control, he races with the unfettered enthusiasm of a horse who loves his job. The sport might be geared to the young, but Redattore missed that memo.

Sweet Return has a long way to go before can be held in the same esteem as Redattore. His victory in the Hollywood Derby will be looked upon as a fluke of an extremely slow pace, which gave him the reserves he needed to hold off a charge that resembled Pickett at Gettysburg. Krone was asked if she heard them coming.

"Are you kidding?" she replied. "It sounded like a stampede! I remember thinking, 'If I fall off now, they'll be finding pieces of me all over the backstretch when they start picking hooves.' "

The Hollywood Derby winner had been thoroughly tested over the last several months in a crucible of hot competition, beginning with three grass races at Del Mar and then the Oak Tree Derby at Santa Anita. Fairly Ransom, Singletary, Devious Boy, and Sweet Return fired shots at each other time after time, providing constant entertainment. Among the most interested observers on Sunday was Murray Friedlander, the bloodstock agent and former trainer who originally suggested McAnally take a look at Sweet Return in the yard of British trainer Ian Wood. He did, in the company of Friedlander, fellow agent Emmanuel de Seroux, and William Lord Huntingdon, former trainer for the Queen of England. Friedlander described it as a "team effort."

"He ran very well in the Solario Stakes," Friedlander said, referring to the late summer 2-year-old event at England's Sandown race course. "I've found that race can be a wonderful indicator. When I first saw him I thought he was a pleasant looking individual, with no conformation defects, who could turn out to be a very useful horse.

"Winning at 10 furlongs was a pleasant surprise, and no doubt a function of the pace," Friedlander added. "I think as he matures, he'll turn out to be most effective at 7 to 8 furlongs on the grass."

That's fine, as long as he knows he'll be entering Redattore territory.