10/02/2008 11:00PM

Epic Power facing toughies in third go-round

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Epic Power has been a fixture in the $175,000 California Cup Mile in the last two years, winning the race in 2006 and finishing second to Unusual Suspect last year.

Epic Power and Unusual Suspect are part of Sunday's field in the California Cup Mile at Santa Anita, but last year's winner is not the horse Epic Power's trainer, Jack Carava, fears the most. Bold Chieftain, who is after his fifth stakes win of the year, may be unbeatable, Carava said.

"This is the third year in a row I've run him in this race, and this is the toughest one I've run in," Carava said. "I'd be proud if he hits the board."

Bold Chieftain is the 123-pound topweight in the field of eight, arguably the best race on Sunday's 11-race program dedicated to statebreds. Aside from Epic Power and Unusual Suspect, the field also includes Pass the Heat and Swift Winds, who are each seeking a third consecutive win; Comoros, who was second to Bold Chieftain in the California Dreamin Handicap at Del Mar in August; and Liberian Freighter, who has been third in three consecutive stakes for 3-year-olds.

Epic Power, at 7 the senior member of the field, has won 12 of 60 starts. He was third behind Pass the Heat and Comoros in an optional claimer over a mile on turf at Del Mar on Sept. 1. For the California Cup Mile, Epic Power has drawn the outside post.

"I'm not worried about the post," Carava said. "I think he can fall into a stalking spot behind the leaders. I don't mind the post as much as the competition."

Bold Chieftain and Pass the Heat are trained by Bill Morey. Bold Chieftain has won 11 of 21 starts and $793,327. This year, the 5-year-old horse has won three stakes at Bay Meadows and one at Del Mar. Morey considered running him in Sunday's $250,000 California Cup Classic, but has decided to keep Bold Chieftain on turf in the Mile.

"He comes back so well off the grass races," he said. "It seems to agree with him after."

Pass the Heat won the Joseph Grace Handicap at Santa Rosa on Aug. 2 before winning an optional claimer at Del Mar. A 5-year-old gelding, Pass the Heat has won half of his 16 starts.

Morey praised Pass the Heat's current form in his folksy manner, saying, "I hate to run them both in the same race, but the other horse is as sharp as jailhouse coffee."

Comoros is seeking his first stakes win. Trained by John Sadler, he was beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Bold Chieftain in the California Dreamin and beaten a neck by Pass the Heat in the optional claimer.

"Those are the horses to beat, and I'm the next one," Sadler said. "I think what will help is a little quicker turf. He's kind of a speed horse going long. I've still got those two to beat."