11/11/2004 12:00AM

Distance the catch in On Trust


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Areyoutalkintome has been remarkably consistent this year. In 10 starts, he has won four races, including the California Cup Sprint, and finished second five times. But his two worst performances came when he tried to stretch out to 7 1/2 furlongs. One time, he finished third. The other time, he lost by 4 1/2 lengths, even though he finished second.

So while Areyoutalkintome will be a deserving favorite in Saturday's $85,000 On Trust Handicap at Hollywood Park, handicappers will have to decide if the extra distance again could be his undoing. They won't be the only ones pondering that question. It also troubles his trainer, Doug O'Neill, who entered Areyoutalkintome on Thursday morning, but with trepidation.

"I just want to make sure it's the right thing to do," O'Neill said. "He's a [six-furlong] horse, but this is one turn and against Cal-breds. It's hard not to take a look at it."

has earned his two best Beyer Speed Figures in his last two starts, including a 108 in the Cal Cup Sprint. Both of those races were at six furlongs. O'Neill is concerned that Areyoutalkintome's late kick won't be as effective with the added distance.

"He might lose his punch in a long sprint," he said. "You never know."

O'Neill also entered Lava Man, who was second in the 1 1/8-mile Cal Cup Classic in his last start. Lava Man is shortening up, but O'Neill sees that as less of a concern compared to the challenge facing Areyoutalkintome.

Seven others are entered in the race, including , who won last year's On Trust but is coming off a poor performance in the Cal Cup Classic, in which he finished last. Excess Summer is an enigma. He has never finished worse than second in four starts at Hollywood Park, but he has not performed well since returning from a near eight-month layoff. Because of his past success here, though, he was assigned top weight of 120 pounds, one more than Areyoutalkintome.

defeated Areyoutalkintome in a first-level allowance race here in July, but since then their fortunes have diverged. Fairly Crafty is winless in four subsequent starts, and was sixth most recently in the Cal Cup Sprint.

is unbeaten in three starts at Hollywood Park. An outside post and wide trip compromised his chances when third in the Cal Cup Classic last time out.