11/14/2007 12:00AM

El Bandido Rojo adapts to longer races

EmailMIAMI - As a 2-year-old last year, El Bandido Rojo showed immediate promise. Using his abundant speed, he won his career debut by nearly eight lengths and was stakes-placed twice before finishing fourth behind the then undefeated division leader Straight Faced in the seven-furlong Affirmed Stakes. But after a failed attempt to stay a mile and 70 yards in the Foolish Pleasure Breeders' Cup Stakes, El Bandido Rojo came back to a life as a sprinter and eventually found himself running for a tag this past summer.

El Bandido Rojo proved a popular item at the claim box, changing hands both times he was offered for a price of $25,000. Bill White was the last one to drop a ticket for El Bandido Rojo, and the 14-time Calder training champion wasted little time making a significant change, stretching the speedster back out around two turns. In his first two starts for White, El Bandido Rojo finished third in a $25,000 optional claiming race and captured a $32,000 claiming event on Oct. 21.

White will give El Bandido Rojo another chance going long in Friday's $25,000 optional claiming feature at Calder. The race, also open to horses eligible for a second-level allowance, is carded at 1 1/16 miles and drew a well-matched field of eight that includes recent Monmouth Park allowance winner Hawkinsville, Legacy Reserve, Minidrop, and

El Batallon.

El Bandido Rojo earned a career-best 86 Beyer Speed Figure finishing third going a mile in his first start for White. He then withstood an early speed duel with Fen and a late challenge from 8-5 favorite Starlight Serenade to capture his most recent start, which was also at a mile. Elvis Trujillo will be aboard El Bandido Rojo for the first time on Friday.

Hawkinsville slogged through the mud to win an entry-level allowance race on the undercard of the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup program at Monmouth. The win was the first for the Grade 3 stakes-placed Hawkinsville since he won a $40,000 starter allowance race in January 2006.

Legacy Reserve finished a distant second behind stablemate Golden Strategy in the two-mile Turf Marathon over the summer here. Trainer Marty Wolfson will turn the reins over to veteran Jorge Chavez, who returned to south Florida this week from New York, where he has ridden regularly since the summer.

Chavez, the 1988 Calder and Tropical at Calder jockey champion, last rode here on a regular basis during the 2005 Tropical meeting, where he fell one victory short of dead-heating with Manoel Cruz for the riding title.

Another familiar name back among the local jockey colony is Rosemary Homeister Jr. Calder's all-time leading female rider, she spent September at Presque Isle Downs, then moved on to Delaware Park before making her way back home earlier this week.

* It's getting hard to keep up with the Lopezes here of late. Ten-pound apprentice Maynor Lopez and veteran Jose Lopez won back-to-back races on Monday's program, while seven-pound apprentice Paco Lopez and journeyman Juan D. Lopez also rode on the same card.

* Stakes winner Running Lass worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 over a fast track on Wednesday. Running Lass finished second behind Annabil in both the Copano and Capital Request stakes earlier this season and was conspicuous by her absence in last Saturday's Elmer Heubeck Distaff Handicap, which was also won by Annabil. Running Lass could return in the Grade 3 My Charmer Handicap on the turf on Dec. 1.

* Croton Road, idle since rolling to an easy win over Jet Propulsion in The Vid Stakes on Aug. 12, drilled a half-mile on the main track Wednesday in 48.20 seconds for trainer Ron Spatz. Croton Road could make his next start in the Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap, which, like the My Charmer, is part of the Grand Slam I card on Dec. 1.