02/10/2009 12:00AM

Distance not ideal for Buck's Bro

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ARCADIA, Calif. - At the start of his 4-year-old season this year, Buck's Bro is beginning to figure out racing.

Although he needed four starts to beat maidens, he did so convincingly at Santa Anita on Jan. 24.

Trainer Gary Sherlock expects more from Buck's Bro, starting in an optional claimer for California-breds Thursday at Santa Anita. While the six-furlong distance is not to Sherlock's liking, there are other circumstances that could work in Buck's Bro's favor. Buck's Bro should have a pace to follow in a field of 11.

"I'd rather go a little further," Sherlock said. "I think he can run three-quarters, but he's better at 6 1/2 or seven."

Owned by Tom Grether Farms, Buck's Bro debuted last July with a fifth-place finish at Hollywood Park. He was given five months off and has since finished third, fourth, and first.

"He came up with a little problem," Sherlock said of the absence. "He hasn't done anything wrong since he came back."

Buck's Bro is part of a competitive field. Camo and Deputy Flyer beat maidens in their last starts. Maui Mark, Pack Your Bags, and River Echo ran well despite losing their last starts.

Deputy Flyer won his debut in a six-furlong maiden race here Dec. 28. A 4-year-old gelding, he is a threat from off the pace and will be well-supported.

Camo and Maui Mark are coupled in the betting because of common ownership among the two groups that own those geldings. Both are returning from layoffs for trainer Howard Zucker.

Camo has not started since winning a one-mile maiden race for statebreds at Del Mar last August. Maui Mark was third in a six-furlong allowance race for statebreds on turf at Hollywood Park last June. Maui Mark won a sprint for statebreds on the main track here last April.

Maui Mark "was a little erratic" last year, Zucker said. "Hopefully, as a 4-year-old, he'll be a little more settled. He ran a good race first time out, so hopefully he'll run well off a layoff. He's had some useful works."

River Echo has won 2 of 13 starts. He was a well-beaten second to Devoted Magic in an allowance race at 6 1/2 furlongs here Jan. 7. The loss was flattered when Devoted Magic returned to finish second in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Handicap on Jan. 25.