06/28/2001 11:00PM

Will Caller One show or not?


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Early in the week, when trainer Jim Chapman was talking up a storm about his good sprinter Caller One, the Grade 2 Triple Bend Handicap on Sunday was shaping up as a terrific seven-furlong race.

Caller One would carry 126 pounds against the good 3-year-old Squirtle Squirt, and Chapman said Tuesday, "Our horse is big enough to carry it. We'll see how hard they want to run. I can't hold him in the barn, he's got to do something.

"They'll be going full-bore. We're not talking about a half-mile sprint, it's seven-eighths of a mile," Chapman said. "Do you think [jockey Corey Nakatani] is going to take back off Squirtle Squirt?"

Well, no.

By late in the week, however, Chapman began to leak. The weight spread - Caller One would concede at least eight pounds to his rivals - was now a concern. Assurance from Chapman that Caller One would skip the Triple Bend only if a Del Mar match race was on, was forgotten. There will be no match race, and only Chapman knows if Caller One will start Sunday.

The vacillation will prevent anyone from properly analyzing the Triple Bend until late scratches are announced. Hollywood Park bettors hope if Caller One is scratched, it happens before the first leg of the pick six. The Triple Bend is race 10 on the card, the fifth leg of a pick six that offers a $1 million guaranteed pool.

Should Caller One duck, Squirtle Squirt may find himself on the lead under Laffit Pincay, expected to ride one pound over at 115. Trained by Bobby Frankel, the 3-year-old Squirtle Squirt is a son of Marquetry, who gave Frankel his first Gold Cup win 10 years ago.

The Triple Bend is one of three supporting stakes on the Gold Cup card, and includes last year's winner, Elaborate, stakes winners Grey Memo and National Saint, presser Explicit, late-runner Stormy Jack, Redattore, and Lord Grillo.

Squirtle Squirt had a slow workout Monday (six furlongs in 1:14), but Frankel said "it doesn't matter." The colt is 5 for 6 at Hollywood Park, and his only loss was one of his best efforts. That was the Grade 3 Laz Barrera on May 28, when Squirtle Squirt engaged ina suicidal pace battle and finished second to Early Flyer. If there is no other pace in the Triple Bend, Squirtle Squirt may be long gone.