05/20/2004 11:00PM

Chandtrue a rocket among scooters


ARCADIA, Calif. - Chalk players will appreciate the $75,000 Willard L. Proctor Memorial Stakes on Sunday at Hollywood Park, where runaway maiden winner starts as the rightful favorite in the five-furlong stakes for 2-year-olds. Catch him if you can.

"He's a rocket ship, and we're going to use his asset," trainer Bob Hess said. The remark allays concern over a possible change in strategy. Chandtrue sped to an impressive front-running debut win April 29 by sizzling 4 1/2 furlongs in 50.83 seconds. But when Hess worked Chandtrue in company on Monday, the colt, sired by Yes It's True, showed a new dimension.

"I threw him in behind another horse and got him covered with a bunch of dirt, trying to educate him, and it didn't bother him at all," Hess said. But the trainer added: "That's not to say we're taking him back - we're not."

Good, because the last thing a 2-year-old sprinter needs is to slow down. Besides, Chandtrue already has established himself as the fastest 2-year-old in Southern California. Sunday, jockey Corey Nakatani will simply let him rip.

Barring the unforeseen, Chandtrue should race gate to wire over seven others in the first 2-year-old stakes of the season open to either gender. Unlike last weekend's Nursery Stakes for fillies, in which a first-time starter was favored, bettors will get it right Sunday. The median winning Beyer in the Proctor is 84, just two points higher than what Chandtrue earned in his debut. No other entrant comes close.

The Proctor goes as race 8, deep enough into the card for pick six bettors to single Chandtrue. Those trying to knock off the favorite might consider the Leonard Duncan-trained , who earned a 62 Beyer when he raced gate to wire in a $40,000 maiden-claimer in his April 25 debut. Duncan also nominated Bobby the Bagger, winner of an April 22 maiden race that produced two next-start winners, but a foot abscess will prevent his participation.

While Duncan expressed disappointment that Bobby the Bagger is unable to run, he expects a good effort from Rhythm River.

"He's doing good, he's training well, and he's happy," Duncan said.

But is he fast enough? Bettors will vote no.

The Proctor field also includes Black Wagner, Cover Now, and Zero Call, all winners of two-furlong maiden races.