06/22/2008 11:00PM

Afleet Ruler a critical part of pick six

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - If things go according to plan, Afleet Ruler will win an optional claimer over a mile on turf at Hollywood Park on Wednesday and will be a key horse in a pick six that features a carryover of $172,556. It would also set up a start in the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar on July 16.

At least, that's the plan. Trainer John Sadler has watched Afleet Ruler finish second or third in three consecutive stakes since mid-March and thinks the colt needs a victory on Wednesday to boost his confidence.

"Now is the time to get a nice race, make some money, and get ready for Del Mar," Sadler said. "For him, it's a prep race. He's been running against better horses."

Owned by Joy Ride Racing, Afleet Ruler has just 1 victory in 7 starts and earnings of $123,700. During the spring, he finished third in the Pasadena Stakes at Santa Anita in March, second to Tiz West in the La Puente Stakes in April as the

3-1 favorite, and second to Two Step Salsa in the Grade 3 Laz Barrera Memorial Stakes here on May 18.

Afleet Ruler has kept good company. Polonius, who won the Pasadena, returned to win the Will Rogers Stakes in May. Tiz West won the Grade 3 Cinema Handicap last Saturday. Two Step Salsa won the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap on June 15.

Afleet Ruler's losses do not overly concern Sadler.

"I've watched him closely," he said. "Is he hanging a little bit? I don't think so. He's a little bit of a tweener on the distance. I feel his best distance is seven-eighths."

Wednesday, Afleet Ruler has drawn the outside post in a field of eight 3-year-olds, and will be favored.

The race also includes Funny Me, who has not started since a fourth in the Pasadena Stakes, and Enactment, who was fourth in an optional claimer over

1 1/16 miles on turf here June 1.

The pick six covers the third through eighth races. In the third race, Down will be favored in an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles. The fifth and sixth races are for claimers and have fields of seven and nine entrants.

There are two five-furlong maiden races for 2-year-olds in the pick six - the fourth race for maiden claimers, and a maiden special weight for fillies in the last race.