11/21/2006 12:00AM

El Don's versatility gets new test


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Four of El Don's victories have come on turf. He has also won three times on dirt. So even though he has made his last nine starts on turf, El Don's versatility gives trainer Marty Jones confidence that he will also handle Cushion Track in Thursday's $100,000 On Trust Handicap, the Thanksgiving Day feature at Hollywood Park.

The On Trust, at 7 1/2 furlongs, is for older California-breds. It drew 11 runners, including the entry of El Don and the comebacking Tiz Afire. El Don carries 119 pounds, two fewer than the topweight, Areyoutalkintome, who is coming back 19 days after the Breeders' Cup Sprint. The On Trust goes as the seventh race on an eight-race card that begins at 11 a.m. Pacific.

El Don is not entirely unfamiliar with Cushion Track. For years Jones has been stabled year-round at Hollywood Park, so El Don has trained over this surface for more than a month. He was scheduled to race last month in the California Cup Mile, but was scratched because he popped an abscess in his right hind foot on the eve of the race.

"Once it popped out of there, he was all right," Jones said Tuesday morning. "The timing was bad. When it comes up the day before the race, what are you going to do?"

You do what Jones did - regroup.

"He's trained good over Cushion Track," Jones said. "He ran well on dirt before he got on turf. This looks like a good spot with him being a Cal-bred. The distance is good. He's not an easy horse to spot."

For a one-turn race, the On Trust lacks serious sprint speed. Cheroot and King Mobay were the front-runners in the Cal Cup Classic, but that was going 1 1/8 miles.

"There's not much pace, but I'm not worried as much with this track," Jones said. "I might be worried more if it was at Santa Anita."

Cheroot finished second in the Cal Cup Classic after setting the pace, with King Mobay fading to fifth.

Areyoutalkintome finished 13th in the BC Sprint, well back of stablemate Thor's Echo, but he had a rough trip. He finished second on the synthetic Polytrack surface at Keeneland in the Phoenix BC Stakes prior to that, and, like El Don, he trains regularly at Hollywood Park, so Cushion Track will not be new to him.

Debonair Joe comes off a sharp second-place finish in the Cal Cup Sprint behind Da Stoops. The 2002 Malibu Stakes winner has snapped back to life after dipping into the claiming ranks earlier this year.