12/12/2007 12:00AM

Bigger goals on the horizon

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Alex Evers/Horsephotos
Albertus Maximus will tune up for a possible start in the Strub series.
INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The careers of the promising 3-year-olds Albertus Maximus and Celtic Dreamin will briefly converge in a $58,000 allowance race at Hollywood Park on Friday.

Celtic Dream, a stakes winner at Hastings in September and the runner-up in the California Cup Classic on Nov. 3, is being pointed for the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita on Jan. 26.

Albertus Maximus, second in the Affirmed Handicap and Swaps Breeders' Cup Stakes during the summer but eighth in the Pacific Classic in his last start in August, is a candidate for the Strub series at Santa Anita in early 2008.

Friday's race at 1 1/16 miles is the first meeting between Albertus Maximus and Celtic Dreamin, who head a five-horse field.

Celtic Dreamin is likely to go favored. Trained by Rafael Becerra, Celtic Dreamin has not been worse than second in seven starts, including five wins. He will be ridden by leading jockey Garrett Gomez, who was aboard the gelding for the first time in the California Cup Classic.

Celtic Dreamin was beaten a half-length by Bold Chieftain in the Classic, rallying from eighth.

"Garrett knows him better," Becerra said. "I think he'll give him a good ride."

Becerra credits Celtic Dreamin's success to maturity and a patient approach to bringing him through his allowance conditions.

"When you go through every level, it gives him a lot of confidence, and he's been against 3-year-olds," Becerra said. "We've got to find out where he is."

Albertus Maximus won 2 of his first 4 starts, but is winless in his last three. He was a decent second in the Affirmed and Swaps, but was overmatched in the Pacific Classic. Trainer Gary Mandella said the colt deserved a break after that race.

"It was a bit ambitious," Mandella said. "You have to apologize to your horse when you do something like that. I got him off the track.

"I'm just getting him back. I think he's ready enough. I'm trying to purposefully get him so that he gets a lot out of the race to set him up for the San Fernando and the Strub. I don't think he's short."

Of the other three starters, Zappa has the best recent form. He was second in the Tanforan Stakes at Golden Gate Fields on Nov. 10 and was a winner at Santa Anita in October.