06/07/2005 11:00PM

'Wizard' tunes up for turf stakes

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - This Wizard Rocks, a stakes winner at Fairplex Park last September, ended an eight-month break with a second in an allowance race for sprinters last month.

From trainer Dan Dunham's perspective, the performance was a solid start to the season, which he hopes will begin in earnest on Friday night when This Wizard Rocks starts in a $51,000 allowance race for California-breds at 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park.

A victory could lead to a start for This Wizard Rocks in the Oceanside Stakes on turf at Del Mar next month.

"I would love to run him on the turf," Dunham said. "He seems to handle everything that we've thrown at him."

So far that includes sprints, a runner-up in a maiden race on turf at Del Mar last summer, and a victory in the Gateway to Glory Stakes as a maiden last fall. emerged from that race with a bone chip in a knee. The injury put a stop to a campaign that would have included an appearance in the California Cup Juvenile.

This Wizard Rocks was away from racing until May 20, when he closed from fourth to finish second by 6 1/2 lengths to King of L.A. in a $49,000 allowance race for statebreds at 6 1/2 furlongs.

"We just started him there because he hadn't run in eight months," Dunham said. "We didn't expect to beat that horse sprinting."

Friday, This Wizard Rocks has drawn the outside in a field of six. The race has drawn Tangmalangaloo and Top This and That, who were second and third against a similar field on May 12.

, trained by Bill Spawr, is winless in his last five starts. Top This and That was third in the Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-olds on April 24, his lone stakes appearance.

As a stalker, This Wizard Rocks could get a good trip behind Pachiro and Wayward Storm, who have shown speed.

"I think that's his style," Dunham said. "This is a lot to ask. I think he'll run a good race."

A victory would end a drought for Dunham, whose stable is searching for its first win of the year. He has had only 15 starters through Wednesday.

Dunham has 25 horses at San Luis Rey Downs in northern San Diego County. Some of his horses are lay-ups being prepared for other trainers; half of the horses form his own stable.