01/05/2008 12:00AM

Chatain gives Hal's Hope a go


HALLANDALE BEACH - Trainer Angel Penna Jr. said he was going to try to keep Chatain from reading the newspapers in the days leading up to Sunday's $100,000 Hal's Hope Handicap at Gulfstream Park. And not because he wants to prevent his handicap star from getting a big head by reading his own press clippings.

"I don't want him to find out he's running Sunday," Penna said. "Or he'll try to find some way to get hurt."

Chatain has been a source of both pride and frustration for Penna during an injury-plagued career that includes a game head victory in the 2007 Hal's Hope. Now 5, Chatain was one of 13 older horses entered in the one-mile Hal's Hope, along with the up-and-comer Timber Reserve and Grade 1 winner Commentator.

The Grade 3 Hal's Hope will be just the ninth start for Chatain, who began his career with an impressive 3 1/2-length maiden allowance win at Gulfstream in February 2006.

"He's just accident-prone," said Penna. "If he has any one real weakness it's his feet. He's got thin walls and shallow soles, but he's got glue-on shoes now and at the moment he's doing well."

Chatain, who finished a troubled fourth behind reigning Horse of the Year Invasor last winter in the Gradeo1 Donn, has won his last two starts. Both were at six furlongs and include a head victory in an overnight stakes at the Meadowlands in his finale as a 4-year-old on Nov. 3.

"I'd like to have had another work into him, but at this point, with all we've gone through with him the past two years, when he's ready to run and there's a race for him you've got to run," Penna said.

Chatain will carry high weight of 118 pounds in the Hal's Hope, one more than Timber Reserve and Commentator.

Timber Reserve, trained by John Kimmel, is also lightly raced. He made only two starts at 3, winning both. His latest appearance resulted in a win by a neck over Xchanger in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 3.

Commentator will be stretching out beyond seven furlongs for the first time since finishing third in the Woodward in 2005. Winner of the Grade 1 Whitney in 2005, he has run only once in the last five-plus months, finishing a tiring seventh after chasing the leader in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

The pace should be fast in the Hal's Hope, with Commentator likely to be pressed for the lead by Elite Squadron, Rexson's Rose, Miner's Lamp, and Yes He's the Man.