09/07/2006 11:00PM

'Allswell' is much improved


POMONA, Calif. - Based on form established last year at Fairplex Park, the 5-year-old mare Allswellthatnswell would be easy to bet against in the $65,000 E.B. Johnston Stakes on Sunday at the Los Angeles County Fair.

Not so fast, warns owner-breeder Bud Johnston.

"She's a totally different mare than she was last year," Johnston said. "Running her long was a waste, because she would get rank and would run off. Now she's kinder, and she will rate."

Allswellthatnswell has yet to win over a route of ground, but there is no doubt that she has improved this year for Johnston, trainer Don Warren, and jockey Isaias Enriquez. Allswellthatnswell finished third in Grade 3 sprints her last two starts, and does not meet any killers Sunday when she tries to stretch her speed 1 1/16 miles.

The E.B. Johnston is named for Buddy Johnston's father. Ellwood B. Johnston was the founder of Old English Rancho, one of the oldest breeding farms in the state of California. And when the E.B. Johnston Stakes was in jeopardy of not filling Friday morning, Buddy Johnston admitted, "Sentimentally, I want the race to go."

Four others eventually entered. They are I Can See, nine-length winner of the Black Swan Stakes one year ago at Fairplex; Off the Richter, a sprinter; Fortunate Event, a supplemental nominee; and claimer Redmeansgo. It is not a strong group; the race was positioned as race 5 on the 13-race card.

Allswellthatnswell dueled for the lead and tired to fifth one year ago in the E.B. Johnston, then two weeks later she finished last in the Las Madrinas Handicap. She has not raced a distance of ground since, while gradually improving.

Johnston credits Enriquez for harnessing the mare's speed. "He's a good part of the reason why she's running so well."

Allswellthatnswell has a big head and becomes uncomfortable when rated. Enriquez, however, takes a long hold that allows Allswellthatnswell to fall into a comfortable steady tempo.

Whether or not that translates to a stakes win at 1 1/16 miles remains to be seen, but Allswellthatnswell enters in the sharpest form of her career. She has earned $254,642 from 23 starts, while earning triple-digit Beyer Figures each of her last three starts.

I Can See is a 3-year-old filly whose affinity for the five-eighths Fairplex Park is one reason why she was claimed one start back for $80,000. Off the Richter finished second in a Del Mar allowance last time.