08/21/2009 12:00AM

Big Bad Leroybrown shortens up for prep


DEL MAR, Calif. - Trainer Don Warren has had a terrific meet at Del Mar, with 4 wins and 2 second-place finishes from his first 10 starters. One of those second-place finishes came with Big Bad Leroybrown on July 30, and Warren is hoping to go one better in the second race on Thursday, when Big Bad Leroybrown meets four rivals in the richest race of the day, a $67,000 money allowance.

Because only five horses entered the six-furlong race, it was kept out of the pick six. But it's not an easy race to handicap. Big Bad Leroybrown is consistent, having finished in the money in his last four starts, but he is shortening up from seven furlongs to six, and he is going to have to run down Paul's Hope, who was 1 1/4 lengths better than Big Bad Leroybrown on July 30.

"He ran well last time, but that's a good horse that beat him," Warren said at his barn Tuesday morning. "I would have preferred 6 1/2 or seven furlongs, which I think is my horse's best distance, but the horse is doing well, and I wanted to run around Aug. 20."

The main reason Warren was desirous of having a race this week is to prep for the Grade 1, $300,000 Pat O'Brien Stakes at seven furlongs on Sept. 6.

"This should help set him up to meet Zensational," Warren said, referring to the Bing Crosby winner. "This is better than a work. He's not a good work horse."

Big Bad Leroybrown prefers to rally from far back, which likely will compromise his chances. Paul's Hope also likes to blast home, so he too could be vulnerable, though he benefits from having the best recent form.

Usurp, the horse who figures to take advantage of the lack of pace, is coming off a disappointing effort. He finished fourth in that July 30 race after setting a moderate pace.

"I'm just hoping that seven-eighths was too far for him and this will be better," said his trainer, Ron Ellis.

Bonfante is another late-runner. He exits a fast race for the level and figures to improve, being as that was his first start in 11 months.

Flashmans Papers wound up on the also-eligible list for the Green Flash Handicap on turf Wednesday, so he was entered in this main-track race as a backup.

"I've been disappointed with his two-turn races lately," said his trainer, Doug O'Neill. "Hopefully he'll run well here. If not, the downhill turf course at Santa Anita is Plan B. He's doing great. He needs to run. And he needs to run one turn."