11/20/2009 12:00AM

American Lion ready to take big step up

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - At WinStar Farm, the baton is being passed. The Tiznow horse Colonel John, who along with Well Armed has been the torch-bearer for WinStar for the past three years, has been retired. Who might take his place? How about another son of Tiznow, who, like Colonel John, has shown precocity at age 2 and is expected to be even better when he goes longer?

This year's model is American Lion, who makes his stakes debut here at Hollywood Park on Saturday in the Grade 3, $100,000 Hollywood Prevue Stakes for 2-year-olds. The Prevue, at seven furlongs, is a prep for next month's Grade 1, $750,000 CashCall Futurity, which has turned into an important preview of coming attractions for the following year's Kentucky Derby prospects.

Hopes are high for American Lion. Elliott Walden of WinStar, who in the summer of 2007 touted Colonel John before he ever ran, was at the Breeders' Cup two weeks ago and said, "I've got another one for you. American Lion."

American Lion comes off a powerful win against maidens at Keeneland in his second start. He got a Beyer Speed Figure of 93, higher than anything else in the Prevue, and the strength of that race was validated when runner-up Positive Split returned to win.

"He ran a super race," Eoin Harty, who took over as American Lion's trainer after his debut at Arlington Park, said Thursday morning. "He ran very, very green. He's still very, very green. His body is bigger than his brain right now. And the farther he goes, the better he'll be. We won't see his best until next year."

Still, his natural ability should make American Lion the favorite against a pair of Bob Baffert trainees, Macias and Indian Firewater, and five others.

Macias won twice at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting after finishing a troubled third in his debut at Del Mar.

"He's coming off a nice win," Baffert said Thursday morning. "This is a good prep for the Futurity."

Indian Firewater owns one win in three starts. He was second as the odds-on favorite in a first-level allowance race at Oak Tree last time out. This is his stakes debut.

"I don't know how good he is yet," Baffert said. "He's a funny horse. He's a quiet little horse, but he gets worked up. He's a stall-walker. At Del Mar, he was in an outside pen, and he was fine, but at Santa Anita, he was running around in his stall."

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