02/17/2010 12:00AM

Early Return could get an ideal trip

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The ninth race Thursday at Oaklawn could shape up one of two ways. Posse Cat may control the pace from his rail post, or he could have some company on the front end in a scenario that would benefit stalker Early Return.

The sprinters are part of a six-horse field in an optional $50,000 claimer at six furlongs for horses who have never won four races. The race is one of two high-end offerings on the program. The second race is a second-level allowance route for fillies and mares that drew the undefeated Like Candy.

Early Return could get a decent setup if Posse Cat and the comebacking Fufty Too set honest fractions. Early Return will break from post 4 under Calvin Borel.

"We're hopeful that we've got a big shot with him," said Steve Margolis, who trains Early Return. "He looks like he's a pretty good fit in the race. He's a solid horse, has run good at a lot of different racetracks."

Early Return is moving back to dirt after finishing fifth last out in the $60,000 Bonapaw on turf at Fair Grounds. Before that race, he was second by three-quarters of a length in a $62,500 optional claimer at Fair Grounds. Early Return is an older half-brother to Cash Refund, who was a dominant winner of last month's Gaudin Memorial at Fair Grounds.

Posse Cat was a front-running winner of a $40,000 optional claiming race at Oaklawn in his last start Jan. 22. It was a stark contrast in tactics for the 5-year-old, who had established himself as a closer. The race was Posse Cat's first for trainer Jinks Fires, who assessed speed was holding that afternoon and said he wanted to try and take advantage of the situation.

"We just sent him on out; he was training well," Fires said. "I usually try to, when I can, see how the pace is holding up during the day and you kind of know how to try and run your horse. It doesn't always work out that way, but you look at how horses are winning, on the front end, or from off the pace."

Posse Cat will break from the rail under Jon Court.

"We hope he'll leave there running and go on with it," said Fires.

The highly competitive field also includes the Grade 2-placed Riley Tucker.