07/14/2006 12:00AM

Cajun Pepper faces easier


AURORA, Co. - Red-hot trainer Jon Arnett will send out Cajun Pepper, the horse to beat, in Sunday's $25,000 Aspen Handicap at Arapahoe Park. The six-furlong Aspen, for Colorado-bred colts and geldings, 3 and up, attracted a field of eight.

Five weeks into the Arapahoe meeting, Arnett is saddling winners at 36-percent clip.

Cajun Pepper finished second in this race a year ago for owners Harry Veruchi and Eli Diamant. His lone win last season came prior to that outing, in Arapahoe's Inaugural Handicap, an open six-furlong race that he won by 5 1/4 lengths.

Cajun Pepper made two starts at Sunland Park in January and then didn't race again until June 11 here, when he finished sixth of seven, beaten 8 1/2 lengths, in the Arapahoe Park Sprint. He has trained well for Arnett since that race and appears primed for a top effort against this group of lesser rivals.

Cajun Pepper, a 4-year-old by Barricade, has won 6 of his 15 starts and is the leading money winner in the lineup with earnings of $145,000. Travis Wales, second in the rider standings here, has the mount.

Long Range, owned by Lewis Tuck and trained by Earl McKinnon, figures to be Cajun Pepper's main opposition because of the company he's faced. The 6-year old Long Range earned a hard-fought victory against $30,000 claiming company at Sunland Park this spring, his lone win from five starts on the season. Long Range has been competitive in all of his outings this year, including the Arapahoe Park Sprint, where he finished fourth, beaten 5 1/2 lengths. Lone Range is the second-leading money earner in the lineup with $130,000. He has won 7 of his 27 starts and finished third or better 10 other times.

Post time for Sunday's program has been moved back one hour to 2 p.m. because of the annual women's triathlon held here and at the nearby Arapahoe Reservoir.