11/08/2008 1:00AM

Escalon has room to improve

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Escalon left owner Joseph LaCombe and trainer Doug O'Neill dreaming of big things after he won a maiden race at Del Mar in early August. Despite two subsequent losses, O'Neill's enthusiasm has not subsided.

A sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity and a third in the California Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita last month have done little to push Escalon to the top of the California 2-year-old division. That could change in Saturday's $100,000 Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Escalon's promising finish in the California Cup Juvenile makes him a contender in the 1 1/16-mile Real Quiet. Escalon finished three lengths behind Lucky Primo in the field of 13. Escalon was ninth on the backstretch and closed steadily.

"He didn't have the cleanest trip," O'Neill said. "When he got out, he plugged away. I wouldn't say he's peaked yet. I think we can see improvement in him."

Escalon will need to improve to beat Charlie's Moment, the lone stakes winner in the Real Quiet field. Trained by Walther Solis for a partnership, Charlie's Moment won the minor Gateway to Glory Stakes at Fairplex Park on Sept. 19 and finished third in the Jack Goodman Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 18.

The Gateway to Glory was run at 1 1/16 miles, and was Charlie's Moment's first stakes win.

"He was three-wide the whole way and still came on pretty good," Solis said. "I heard people say he didn't beat anything, but he's a good horse.

"I think going a mile and a sixteenth, he relaxes really nicely. He doesn't mind where you put him."

Charlie's Moment is making his fourth consecutive start in a stakes. He finished fourth, but was placed third after an inquiry, in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar in August. Charlie's Moment had to be steadied in the final sixteenth, and finished 2 1/4 lengths behind Kelly Leak, who was demoted to fourth.

"If we didn't have the worst of the inquiry, we could have been right there," Solis said of the Best Pal finish.

Charlie's Moment has drawn the outside post in the field of seven. The O'Neill-trained Mark S the Cooler, a maiden after two starts, and When We Met, the winner of a seven-furlong maiden race at Santa Anita on Oct. 19, could show speed.