09/09/2011 1:57PM

Fairplex Park: Half Dome Dude may be a natural

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POMONA, Calif. – Half Dome Dude beat the odds twice already. Sunday at Fairplex Park, trainer Caesar Dominguez hopes he does it again on a card filled with short prices.

The pick-six sequence (races 6-11) Sunday at Fairplex includes four favorites at even money or less on the preliminary line, including C J Russell, an apparent standout in the $50,000 Jim Kostoff Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters.

Dominguez, however, concedes nothing in the Kostoff. He believes Half Dome Dude can improve switching from synthetic to a conventional dirt surface. “I think the dirt will help him,” Dominguez said. “It’s natural.”

What is not natural is accomplishing something owners Henry Dominguez and Kirk Robison achieved in just one race: recoup their entire investment in Half Dome Dude. Robison and Henry Dominguez, Caesar’s brother who trains horses at Zia Park, liked what they saw when Half Dome Dude made his debut Aug. 14 at Del Mar.

“They liked the workouts,” Caesar Dominguez said. “They said any horse that works like that is worth the money.” They claimed him from Mike Mitchell for $20,000. The claim looked good when Half Dome Dude ($9.80) won by more than five as the third choice.

Two weeks later, Dominguez entered Half Dome Dude in a starter allowance at Del Mar. A quarter-mile into the race, it looked bleak. “He was 10 lengths dead last,” Dominguez said. “When I saw he was that far back, I was panicking.”

No worries. Half Dome Dude rallied wide and won going away with an 89 Beyer Speed Figure. He paid $12.60 and earned $28,800. His owners are “out” already.

Unfortunately for Dominguez, whose 19 stakes ranks fourth on the all-time Fairplex list, Sunday could be the last start in California for Half Dome Dude. “There’s nothing for him at Santa Anita,” Dominguez said. “Chances are he’ll probably be going to Zia Park.”

Jose Valdivia rides Half Dome Dude, whose dam, Laker Girl, won a maiden claimer by more than six lengths in her only start at Fairplex Park.

The pace scenario of the 6 1/2-furlong Kostoff suits the running style of Half Dome Dude. Three of the six entrants – Crown King, El Rancho and C J Russell – are front-runners. The fastest is C J Russell.

Bob Baffert trains C J Russell, who won his first two starts at Churchill Downs before jumping into a Grade 3 sprint at Monmouth. The colt was visibly uncomfortable on the wet track and uncharacteristically dropped off the pace, but finished with run for second.

Since that race July 3, C J Russell posted a series of fast works at Santa Anita. If he reproduces his allowance win (93 Beyer) two starts back, C J Russell should win the Kostoff under the track’s all-time leading jockey Martin Pedroza.

Luckarack and Road Ready also entered the Kostoff, race 10 on an 11-race card.