06/22/2005 11:00PM

Three invitees out of American Oaks

Benoit & Associates
Charm the Giant wins the seventh race Wednesday in a manner that has her connections thinking the San Clemente at Del Mar could be next.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The field for the $750,000 American Oaks at Hollywood Park on July 3 will not have three fillies that were among the original invitees last weekend, including Karen's Caper, the runner-up in the Coronation Stakes in England earlier this month.

The absence of Karen's Caper weakens the Grade 1 American Oaks, which is promoted as an international race and is expected to draw runners from Europe, Japan, California, and New York.

According to Hollywood Park racing officials, others confirmed as not going in the race are Laurafina, the runner-up in the Sands Point Handicap at Belmont Park on June 5, and Grat, the winner of two allowance races on turf this year, at Churchill Downs and Gulfstream Park. Karen's Caper, owned by Stonerside Stable and trained by John Gosden, will remain in Europe.

In addition to those three, Splendid Blended is unlikely to start in the American Oaks, trainer Neil Drysdale said on Thursday. She worked seven furlongs in 1:27.40 on turf Thursday, the first time she worked on the surface.

"I don't think she looked that comfortable on the grass," Drysdale said.

He said he planned to discuss options with owner Peter Vegso before making plans for Splendid Blended.

The European-based fillies Hallowed Dream and Sweet Firebird have filled two of the berths in the expected field of 14.

Hallowed Dream, trained in England by Clive Brittain, is still a maiden after eight starts, but was second in the Italian Oaks on June 18.

Sweet Firebird, trained in Ireland by Dermot Weld, was stakes-placed earlier this year in Ireland, and beat maidens in her last start on May 26.

Additional invitations are expected to be issued over the weekend.

The American Oaks is led by Melhor Ainda, the winner of the Sands Point, and Three Degrees, the winner of the Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap here on June 5.

Charm the Giant comes up big

Another promising 3-year-old filly who will not start in the American Oaks is Charm the Giant, the winner of the seventh race on Wednesday.

Trained by Ron McAnally for his wife, Debbie, Charm the Giant won her second consecutive start in an allowance race over a mile on turf. The race may turn out to be a prep for the $150,000 San Clemente Handicap over a mile on turf at Del Mar on July 30.

"The timing is right," Ron McAnally said of the San Clemente.

Ridden by Alex Solis, Charm the Giant was always near the front in Wednesday's race. She stalked pacesetters Sneaky Jack and Veela to the final turn, sneaked through along the rail to take the lead in the final furlong, and won by three-quarters of a length over Unusual Spring.

"She relaxed the whole way," Solis said. "I had to be patient. I got through. She was best today."

Sent off as the 2-1 favorite, Charm the Giant was timed in 1:36.58.

"Considering it was her first time over a mile and first time against winners, it was a good race," McAnally said.

Charm the Giant is by top stallion Giant's Causeway and is out of Olympic Charmer, a four-time stakes winner campaigned by the McAnallys.

Greeley at loss over Borrego's dud

Borrego, fourth in the Californian Stakes last Saturday, remains on course for the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 9.

Trainer Beau Greeley said he is at a loss to explain why Borrego finished seven lengths behind upset winner Lava Man. Borrego, third in the Santa Anita and Mervyn LeRoy handicaps earlier this year, was a top contender for the Californian.

"I hope it's a race you can throw out," Greely said. "He was a little close to the pace and I think he's a horse that's better sitting back and making one run."

The Gold Cup field is coming up weak. It is led by Congrats, the runner-up in the Santa Anita Handicap who finished fifth in the Dubai World Cup on March 26 and second in his comeback race, the Ack Ack Handicap over 7 1/2 furlongs June 11.

Mighty Beau takes a break

Mighty Beau, the Churchill Downs stakes winner who was unplaced in two stakes in England last week, has returned to California and is being given a break, trainer Jeff Mullins said.

Mighty Beau finished fifth in the Group 2 King's Stand Stakes over five furlongs at Royal Ascot at York on June 14 and 11th in the Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes over six furlongs on June 18. Mighty Beau was beaten only three lengths in the King's Stand despite not getting a hold of the course at the start, Mullins said.

"He dug in for as far as he could," he said. "The ground was kind of loose and the second race it was kind of chewed up. I shouldn't have run him the second time. It's easy to look back and say that now."

Claim box busy

There seems to be an increasing demand here for horses at all levels.

Even though there were only four starters in Thursday's first race for $25,000 claimers, three of the four 3-year-olds were claimed. At first glance, the race did little to flatter the breed. It took race winner S S Strange 1:46.16 to run the 1 1/16 miles.

While S S Strange was not claimed, runner-up Spectacular Bay was taken by trainer Gary Stute, third-place finisher Lone Prairie was claimed in a three-way shake by trainer Ron Ellis, and last-place finisher Wayward Storm was taken in a seven-way shake by Frank Monteleone.

There has been a frenzy of claiming activity in recent weeks as owners and trainers build their stables for the Del Mar meeting, which begins a seven-week run on July 20. There were seven claims on Wednesday's eight-race card.

* Wednesday's pick six marked a rare day when a consolation was paid for tickets containing just four winners. But picking the four winners was not easy.

There was only one winning favorite, Charm the Giant, who paid $6.20. The other winners were The Known Q ($19.20), Native Turf ($24.40), Bright Midnight ($18.40), Highest Honoree ($27.60), and Kalookan Lessie ($9.40).

There was a carryover of more than $89,000 for Thursday's card. Consolation tickets with 4 of 6 paid $480.40.