09/12/2004 11:00PM

'Excess' tries for winning comeback

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POMONA, Calif. - Excess Summer could be rusty when he returns from an eight-month layoff in the $60,000 Governor's Handicap on Wednesday at Fairplex Park. But wager against the best horse in the 6 1/2-furlong race? Trainer Jeff Mullins cautions bettors not to overlook the obvious.

"He loves this racetrack, and we've got [Martin] Pedroza up," Mullins said.

Excess Summer romped in the 2003 Pomona Derby, but has not raced since January after surgery to remove an ankle chip. Can he win first start back? "I think he can," Mullins said, with a ring of confidence.

In the first three days of the 2004 Fairplex meet, Mullins has won two races - almost as many as Jerry Hollendorfer, the trainer of Excess Summer's main rival, has won at Fairplex in the past 12 years.

A northern California kingpin, Hollendorfer rarely focuses on Southern California, and since 1992 has started just nine runners at Fairplex, winning three races. He may add to the total Wednesday with racing-fit Halo Cat. Impressive winner of the Ernest Finley last out at Santa Rosa, Halo Cat is the most probable Governor's Cup winner.

Eight entered the race, which is the only fair stakes this year for older sprinters. The Governor's Cup was scrapped last year due to insufficient entries, and officials chose to cancel the Aprisa Handicap this year and schedule just one sprint stakes because of the difficulty in filling both during the 17-day meet.

Halo Cat has won 10 races and $356,430 from 27 starts; Excess Summer has won six races and $494,261 from 11 starts. Excess Summer has earned consistently faster speed figures than Halo Cat, while facing tougher company. In his last start, at Santa Anita, Excess Summer finished second behind Grade 1 winner Southern Image.

Mullins, who has won 42 Fairplex races through Sunday, said Excess Summer has trained "awesome" for his comeback. Apparently, so has Halo Cat, who returned from a 13-month layoff July 31 to win the Finley. In sharp form, he gets a favorable pace scenario. Garrett Gomez rides Halo Cat.

The field also includes Roll Hennessy Roll, Retirees Three, Heavenly Search, Court's in Session, My - Men's Exclusive, the only starter from the 1997 Breeders' Cup Sprint still in training, comes out of retirement Wednesday in the ninth race.