07/10/2008 11:00PM

Colonel John starts over in Swaps


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - It has been 10 weeks since Colonel John finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby. The loss may have tarnished his reputation among the nation's leading 3-year-olds, but it did not hurt his standing in California.

Colonel John remains the leading 3-year-old male in this state, which is why he will be favored to win his fourth stakes in Saturday's Grade 2, $350,000 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Colonel John is one of four stakes winners in the field of six, and is the most accomplished with 4 wins in 7 starts and earnings of $825,300. Owned by WinStar Farms, Colonel John is ready to run, according to trainer Eoin Harty. The disappointment of a trouble-filled race in Kentucky has passed.

"He needs to run," Harty said. "It's time to start the second half of the year."

The stakes winners Nownownow, Trevor's Clever, and Two Step Salsa - and the stakes-placed Madeo and Tres Borrachos - will attempt to upset Colonel John.

The race has not drawn a field as deep as originally expected. Dixie Chatter, the winner of the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes last fall, will run instead at Del Mar next week, and Behindatthebar, the winner of the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland in April, was withdrawn from the Swaps earlier this week because of a minor foot injury.

"The less competition, the better," Harty said. "My horse is going to run the same race if they had been there or not."

Colonel John is proven at 1 1/8 miles, having won the Grade 3 Sham Stakes and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in April. In the Santa Anita Derby, Colonel John overcame traffic on the final turn to win by a half-length, making up more than six lengths in the final three furlongs. Harty would like to see Colonel John closer to the pace.

"I don't want a repeat of the Santa Anita Derby," he said. "I don't think my heart and nerves could take it. I expect to be in a stalking position."

Two Step Salsa is likely to set the pace. Trained by Julio Canani for breeder Everest Stable, Two Step Salsa has won two Grade 3 stakes at this meeting - the seven-furlong Laz Barrera Stakes and the Affirmed Handicap over 1 1/16 miles. The Swaps will be the longest race of his career.

The distance will not be an issue for Trevor's Clever or Madeo, who finished first and second, separated by a neck, in the Alydar Stakes over 1 1/8 miles here on May 24. It was the stakes debut for both.

Trainer John Shirreffs said that Madeo will make a late run in the Swaps.

"We want to go back to coming off the pace a little more," Shirreffs said. "We thought he had a good chance to win his prior race, but he moved too soon."

The Swaps represents the California debut of Nownownow, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Monmouth Park last fall. He was fifth in the Irish 2000 Guineas on May 24, and will be making his debut for trainer Jason Orman.

"I think the main thing for him is how he handles the track," Orman said. The Irish 2000 Guineas "was his first start after a long layoff and that was against some nice horses."