07/07/2002 11:00PM

Tribal Rule firing bullets

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - There was a time last summer when Tribal Rule was considered a candidate for the Breeders' Cup Sprint. This year, owners Marty and Pam Wygod and trainer Julio Canani would just like to see him start more than twice.

On Wednesday at Hollywood Park, the 6-year-old Tribal Rule makes his fourth career start in a $51,000 allowance/optional claimer over six furlongs.

Tribal Rule drew the rail and will be favored against six others. He will be ridden by David Flores, who was aboard for two flashy six-furlong wins last August at Del Mar - a nine-length win in a maiden race on Aug. 4 and a five-length win in a first-condition allowance race on Aug. 25. From those races, he earned Beyer Speed Figures of 109 and 106.

Tribal Rule was being considered for a sprint stakes last fall when he was sidelined with injury. He spent the winter at the Wygods' California farm before returning to training.

"He's been here more than two months," Canani said. "He's training super."

Tribal Rule has frequently shown fast works and his recent efforts have been exceptional. He went five furlongs in 58.20 seconds on June 27, the fastest of 37 works at the distance and returned on July 3 to go five furlongs in 59 seconds, the fastest of 28 works.

Canani said the Breeders' Cup Sprint is not too outlandish of a goal for 2002. "If he holds together, he's a nice horse," Canani said.

Last August, Tribal Rule won by leading throughout and from a stalking position. With his ability to zip a half-mile in less than 45 seconds, he is likely to have the lead in Wednesday's race.

Timely Action, a 3-year-old colt trained by Richard Mandella, is the biggest threat to Tribal Rule.

Timely Action has been perfect in two starts this year, a maiden win by five lengths on May 18 and a four-length win in an allowance race over seven furlongs on June 13.

With his draw from post 4, Timely Action should be able to stalk Tribal Rule for the first half-mile.

Black Silk, Hyder, and Mighty David are capable of posting upsets. Black Silk has been second in two races at this level at this meeting. Hyder won a $50,000 claimer on May 15, ending a five-race losing streak. He is eligible to be claimed for $62,500.

Mighty David, a stalker, is winless in his last six starts, but was a game second in the Harry Henson Stakes in April.