11/14/2001 1:00AM

Wooden Phone wins in return


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Wooden Phone, who upset Tiznow in Santa Anita's Strub Stakes earlier this year, returned from a 6 1/2-month layoff on Wednesday and scored a game victory over stablemate Pie N Burger in the second race at Hollywood Park.

Wooden Phone was on or near the lead every step of the way, and though trainer Bob Baffert said after the race that he feared Wooden Phone "might be a little short," Wooden Phone valiantly held off Pie N Burger to win by a half-length.

"Hopefully this will set him up good for the rest of the year," Baffert said in the winner's circle.

Wooden Phone, a 4-year-old gelding, had a productive winter. Though his lone victory this winter was in the Strub, Wooden Phone also finished third in the Malibu Stakes and was second to Tiznow in the Santa Anita Handicap. He had not raced since finishing fourth in the Texas Mile at Lone Star Park in April.

"He had a chip in a front ankle," Baffert said.

Eastern runners arrive safely

A number of top runners from the East Coast, including Heavyweight Champ and Spook Express, were out on the main track for training at Hollywood Park on Wednesday morning, two days after arriving on a flight that originated in New York.

Heavyweight Champ, trained by John Terranova, will be one of the leading contenders in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Hollywood Prevue Stakes for 2-year-olds. Spook Express, trained by Tom Skiffington, is scheduled to run in the Grade 1, $500,000 Matriarch Stakes on Nov. 25.

Heavyweight Champ, who finished third in the Champagne Stakes in his last start, was one of six horses sent west this week by Terranova. "I'll probably end up with about 10 out here for the winter, and keep the rest in New York," said Terranova, who is based at Belmont Park. Among those who accompanied Heavyweight Champ are the sprinter Romolo's Fritzi, and the talented but fragile Uncommon Valor.

The seven-furlong Prevue is often used as a prep for the Grade 1, $200,000 Hollywood Futurity next month. Among those scheduled to face Heavyweight Champ in the Prevue are Fonz's, Labamta Babe, Popular, and Roman Dancer, a four-length winner of the Sunny Slope Stakes last time out at Santa Anita.

Spook Express galloped Wednesday morning with exercise rider Andrea DeLong, who accompanied Spook Express and two others from Skiffington's barn, Hollywood Derby candidate Reduit, and the allowance-class turf filly The Parting Glass.

Spook Express is scheduled to work on the turf on Sunday morning. Skiffington is scheduled to arrive here on Friday.

DeLong said the flight, which originated at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, L.I., took off just minutes before American Airlines flight 587 crashed in New York. All New York-area airports were shut down immediately after the accident. "I didn't even know about it until we got out here," DeLong said Wednesday morning.

Paasch has pair of live ones

Trainer Christopher Paasch, who sends out Roman Dancer in the Prevue, has an excellent chance to sweep the weekend's stakes. Paasch will run Anoakia Stakes winner Ponche De Leona, a winner of four of five starts, in Sunday's $100,000 Moccasin Stakes for 2-year-olds fillies.

Ponche De Leona was purchased privately by Paasch after she won three of four starts in Florida for trainer Larry Pilotti. Paasch said he believes 2-year-olds in Florida are good value.

"They take their time with them. They have good-looking, fleshy horses, and they're ready to go," Paasch said.

Among those expected to meet Ponche De Leona in the seven-furlong Moccasin are Bella Bella Bella, Gold Sugar, Runaway Pro, Teresa Ann, and Unforgettable R N.

The Moccasin is a prep for the Grade 1, $200,000 Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 16. Trainer Bobby Frankel on Wednesday said that You, the beaten favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, would run in the Starlet. "She came out of the race with a temperature, but she's fine now," Frankel said.

* Breeders' Cup Mile winner Val Royal, preparing for his trip to Hong Kong next month, worked a half-mile in 47.80 seconds on Wednesday morning at Santa Anita. Another Julio Canani trainee, the older mare Tranquility Lake, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.60. Canani said Tranquility Lake might run in the Matriarch, which is on the turf, or await the Grade 2, $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap on the dirt on Dec. 15.

* Del Mar Oaks winner Golden Apples, preparing for the Matriarch, worked a half-mile between races Wednesday in 48.40 seconds. She covered the final quarter-mile in 23.20 seconds with jockey Garrett Gomez up.

* Wednesday's first race was reduced from five horses to four after Pick of the Valley, the second choice on the morning line, flipped in the paddock and was scratched. Following scratches, a total of 51 horses were scheduled to compete on the eight-race card, an average of fewer than 6 1/2 per race.