04/23/2003 11:00PM

Works indicate Castling set for big effort

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Over the next two Saturdays, trainer Bill Currin has stakes horses running at Hollywood Park and Churchill Downs. The first leg will be much easier than the second.

In Saturday's $150,000 Fran's Valentine Stakes at Hollywood Park, featuring California-bred fillies and mares over 1 1/16 miles on turf, Currin starts Castling, a stakes winner on the Hollywood turf course last year.

On May 3, Currin travels to Churchill Downs, where Outta Here starts as a longshot in the Kentucky Derby.

Castling has impressed Currin with her recent training and has him thinking she can win. He refers to recent workouts, including five furlongs in 1:00.40 on April 1, six furlongs in 1:12.40 on April 9, and six furlongs in 1:12.80 on April 19, as evidence of her form.

"You look at her works and they speak for themselves," Currin said.

Kent Desormeaux, Castling's regular rider in the last year, has the mount on Saturday.

Castling won the Valkyr Stakes over a mile on turf at Hollywood last July, but is winless in her last six starts. She finished second in the Cat's Cradle Handicap on the main track here last November and second in the Sacramento Handicap at Golden Gate Fields last month. In between, she was pulled up in the Sunshine Millions Distaff at Santa Anita.

"Kent was trying to protect her," Currin said. "She might have stepped in a hole."

Castling drew post 2 in a field of nine. Other top contenders include Blind Ambition, the sharp winner of an allowance race on March 29; plus Shalini and Serene in Seattle, the first two finishers of the Pro or Con Handicap in January.

Blind Ambition is making her stakes debut. Trained by Marty Jones, she won a first condition allowance for statebred fillies and mares at Santa Anita on March 29, pulling away to score by three lengths as the favorite.

Yes We Do, who will be a longshot, may lead, but Castling will be near the front. "I think if we get a good trip, we can win," Currin said.

Like Castling, Shalini has erratic form. She was an unlucky second in the California Cup Distaff Handicap on turf last October before winning the Pro or Con.

Since the Pro or Con, Shalini was sixth in the Sunshine Millions Distaff and fifth against open company in an allowance race at Santa Anita on March 20.

Ideally, trainer Craig Dollase would have sent Shalini to Florida for a Sunshine Millions race on turf in January, but was afraid she would not take to the journey.

"She can be a little hard on herself and tough to handle in the paddock," Dollase said. "We didn't think it was right to ship her across the country. She's definitely a turf horse and the California-bred angle helps."