03/10/2004 12:00AM

Vronsky just needed time off

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Vronsky went to the sidelines last year in the midst of a four-race losing streak and an inclination to misbehave during races.

Since his return in early January, is unbeaten in two starts on the hillside turf course. His current form makes him a contender in Friday's second race at Santa Anita, a $56,000 optional claimer over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course.

For many of the seven runners, the race is a prep to the final hillside stakes of the meeting, the $100,000 San Simeon Handicap on closing day, April 18.

Owned by Steve Taub, Vronsky returned Jan. 7 from a 10-month layoff and won for the first time since a maiden race in October 2002. Vronsky then made a successful jump in class to score another win Feb. 16. He won both races by a half-length.

The turnaround in form can be attributed to the vacation, trainer Kristin Mulhall said.

"He was jumping shadows and ducking and diving from everything," she said. "We threw him out for four months in a five-acre pasture. He's down to business now. Hopefully, he'll get this one."

Vronsky finished fourth in the 2002 Bien Bien Stakes at Holly-wood Park. A win Friday could move him closer to another stakes, possibly the San Simeon.

Vronsky drew post 2 in the race, which has a field of seven. Five of the seven have won on the hillside turf course.

, second in the minor Daytona Handicap on Feb. 15, is a top contender, along with Golden Arrow, who was third in the Grade 3 Hollywood Turf Express Handicap over 5 1/2 furlongs Nov. 28. Trained by Neil Drysdale, Golden Arrow finished fourth in a hillside race in his last start on Dec. 28.

Other entrants include Top Honours, Mighty Beau, Hemet Thought, and Van Rouge.

Mighty Beau, the winner of two turf sprints at Hollywood Park last fall, will set the pace. Mighty Beau, 5, was fifth behind Lenny-fromalibu in an optional claimer Jan. 22, his only appearance on the hillside course.

Glick and Mighty Beau are trained by Jeff Mullins and are entered for $100,000 claiming prices.

Vronsky and Golden Arrow can race close to the pace.

Hemet Thought has won twice on the hillside since Nov. 1. Trained by Mike Mitchell, Hemet Thought was third in the Sensational Star Handicap for California-breds on Feb. 14.

Top Honours, winless in two starts on the hillside, makes his first start for trainer Juan Lopez.