09/19/2011 2:45PM

Fairplex: Bench the Judge may need this race

Shigeki Kikkawa
Carbonite is likely to be favored in the Governor's Cup.

POMONA, Calif. – Trainer Doug O’Neill and jockey Martin Pedroza are in familiar positions at Fairplex Park – atop the standings Wednesday as the final week of racing begins with a twilight card at the Los Angeles County Fair. First post is 4 p.m.

O’Neill won or shared the meet title seven of the last nine years. Pedroza led the jockey standings 12 consecutive years. O’Neill (12 wins) and Pedroza (21) are likely to increase their advantages during closing week, though perhaps not in the feature race Wednesday.

Bench the Judge, unraced since a decisive Fairplex victory one year ago in the Pomona Derby, returns for O’Neill and Pedroza in the $50,000 Governor’s Cup Handicap. While the horse-for-course angle applies, O’Neill concedes he is up against it on current condition.

“I think he can win on ability,” O’Neill said. “But realistically, fitness-wise he’s probably going to need a race or two before he’s at the Carbonite level.” Carbonite is expected to start favored in the 6 1/2-furlong stake, which has seven entrants.

O’Neill said Bench the Judge was sidelined after removal of a knee chip. “He’s run well fresh, and we’re expecting a good effort,” O’Neill said. “But there are a couple salty ones in there that have been running consistently, and have to be tighter than us.”

Bench the Judge has won three of nine, and finished second last fall in a comeback from a similar layoff. But he meets fast, racing-fit horses in the Governor’s Cup including Carbonite, the preliminary even-money favorite.

Carbonite improved this summer after trainer Mike Mitchell claimed him for $32,000. Second start off the claim, Carbonite won a $50,000 claimer at Hollywood Park by more than four lengths with a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 100. Two subsequent starts at Del Mar were close fourth-place finishes in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby and $104,000 Pirate’s Bounty.

Christian Santiago-Reyes, the second-leading jockey at Fairplex, rides Carbonite, whose 7-for-16 record and recent speed figures make him a borderline standout.

Details R Sketchy won a second-level allowance last time out at Del Mar and has two sharp recent workouts over the five-eighths oval at Fairplex. Daniel Vergara rides the gelding for trainer Hector Palma.

Earnednevergiven returns to dirt, with established Fairplex form. He had a win and a second last here last fall. David Flores is named to ride. Other entrants include Tuxedo Blues, Legal Separation, and Cardiff Giant.