04/27/2007 12:00AM

Epic Power at limit


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Trainer Jack Carava may be holding his breath in the final furlong of the $150,000 Khaled Stakes at Hollywood Park on Sunday.

The race for California-breds is run over 1 1/8 miles on turf, and Carava's starter, Epic Power, is questionable over that distance.

"The thing I'm most concerned with is the mile and an eighth," Carava said.

At a mile, Epic Power would have a better chance. Going farther, he could face stern challenges from Jack's Wild, Super Strut, and Running Free, who have won or placed in stakes for California-breds in recent months.

Epic Power, Running Free, and Super Strut were the first three finishers of the California Cup Mile at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting last October. Jack's Wild won the Crystal Water Handicap for statebreds at Santa Anita in March.

Epic Power is winless in four starts since the Cal Cup Mile. Owned by La Canada Stable, Epic Power was second in a starter handicap over a mile on turf at Santa Anita on March 25, leading for the first six furlongs before fading to finish second behind Phar to Win.

The race came just a week after Epic Power finished a frustrating seventh in the Crystal Water. In that race over a mile, the 6-year-old gelding was steadied while racing in traffic on the backstretch and in the stretch. He finished four lengths behind Jack's Wild.

"He probably could have won pretty comfortable, but he got completely shut down," Carava said.

Jack's Wild is the only one of the four leading contenders with a win this year. Trained by Jorge Gutierrez, Jack's Wild ended a 15-race losing streak in the Crystal Water, rallying from last in a field of nine to pull off a 10-1 upset.

Running Free won the 2005 Khaled but has only 1 victory in his last 13 starts. Also a 6-year-old gelding, Running Free has battled foot problems in the last year, trainer Kristin Mulhall said.

Running Free finished second in an optional claimer on April 13, and was available to be claimed for $62,500. There were no takers.

"He came out of his last race pretty good," Mulhall said. "My horse likes this turf course."

Super Strut was third in the 2006 Khaled, finishing 5 1/4 lengths behind Lava Man. Super Strut won the 2006 Crystal Water but is winless in his last nine starts. He has placed in seven stakes during that span.