07/30/2008 11:00PM

Bold Chieftain looks like perfect fit


DEL MAR, Calif. - Bold Chieftain has won on dirt. He has won on a synthetic surface. And he has won on turf. He has won sprinting, he has won going long. What does he do best?

"I've asked my rider, Russell Baze, and he think he's just as good on turf and the main track," William Morey Jr., who trains and co-owns Bold Chieftain, said Thursday morning. "I think he's better on grass, and I think his best distance is a mile to a mile and a sixteenth."

Morey believes Bold Chieftain will be in his comfort zone on Saturday, when he defends his title in the $125,000 California Dreamin' Handicap for California-breds at Del Mar. The race is on turf, at 1 1/16 miles. Perfect.

"We've pretty much had this in mind since his last race," Morey said. "If you're being realistic, this is the right spot. When you have a Cal-bred, you run against Cal-breds."

Bold Chieftain, 5, has made Morey a walking advertisement for the California-bred owners' and breeders' incentives awards. As a co-owner and co-breeder of Bold Chieftain with three others, as well as being his trainer, Morey has gleaned far more than the $634,727 Bold Chieftain has earned on the track with 10 wins in 19 starts, including last year's California Cup Classic.

"He's been a lot of fun for us," Morey said.

Bold Chieftain returns to the turf after finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap on Cushion Track at Hollywood Park on June 7. In his two prior starts, he won stakes on turf at Bay Meadows, which gives him four wins in six grass races.

In last year's California Dreamin', Bold Chieftain beat Epic Power by 1 1/2 lengths, and - no surprise - Epic Power is back for a rematch, marking the 59th start for the popular 7-year-old gelding.

Epic Power has not won since last summer, having been disqualified from victory in a money-allowance race on the Hollywood Park turf in his last start, June 5. He was second in the Khaled Handicap in his race before that to Mr. Wolverine while beating Lava Man.

Lava Man has been retired, but Mr. Wolverine adds another top contender to this competitive six-horse field. After winning the Khaled, Mr. Wolverine was pitched against Grade 1 company in the 1 1/4-mile Charlie Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood Park. Racing against far better stock, and at the longest distance of his career, he ran well, finishing fourth, just a length behind the victorious Artiste Royal. Monzante, who finished second, subsequently won the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap.

"I think his best distance is a mile and a sixteenth, so this is ideal for him," said Jorge Gutierrez, who trains Mr. Wolverine. "He can handle a mile and an eighth, and he didn't run badly at a mile and a quarter, but a mile and a sixteenth is right up his alley."

Comoros, Tiz Afire, and Cheroot complete the field for the California Dreamin', the third race on the card.