05/24/2002 11:00PM

Fast pair start anew in Barrera


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Time to regroup. Or, as Royal Moro's trainer, Craig Dollase, said, "gain a new lease on life."

Royal Moro, along with fellow onetime Derby hopefuls Fonz's and Captain Squire, comebacker Kamsack, improving Raven Power, and longshot Ecstatic will sprint seven furlongs Monday in the Grade 2 Lazaro Barrera Memorial Stakes, the first of 10 races at Hollywood Park. Last year, Squirtle Squirt won the $150,000 Barrera en route to a victory in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and an Eclipse Award.

It remains to be seen whether a Breeders' Cup Sprint candidate will emerge, but two Barrera entrants have displayed raw ability that suggests their careers are beginning to take off. Royal Moro returns from a short layoff with series of blazing workouts. Raven Power meets stakes company after establishing himself this winter as a potential star. Those two could make the Barrera a match race.

The race is Royal Moro's to lose, despite a 3 1/2-month break following a dull effort. Sold privately to Paul Reddam and transferred to Dollase in winter, Royal Moro failed to pan out as a Derby prospect. Instead, he regressed, finishing third in a minor stakes and off the board in an allowance.

"He was flat, and he came out of the [allowance] race sick," Dollase said. "But now, he has a new lease on life."

In fact, Royal Moro's works have been phenomenal, and he showed in two of his first three starts he can run with any 3-year-old sprinter in California. His best pace and speed figures top the field, and with Pat Valenzuela riding for the first time, Royal Moro may be gone.

First, Royal Moro must put away the promising sprinter Raven Power. He ran well in two routes this winter, but Raven Power's sprints outshine his two-turn races. Trained by Bruce Headley, Raven Power won both one-turn races by daylight, in fast time.

Royal Moro and Raven Power must hold off the closers, including Fonz's, who is due for some luck. Said Fonz's trainer, David LaCroix: "I'm a genius - instead of going to the Blue Grass, I tried to pick an easier spot by going to the Illinois Derby."

Most years, the move would have been profitable. Not this year. At Sportsman's Park, Fonz's ran into previously unheralded War Emblem and finished more than 10 lengths back while popping a quarter crack. Fonz's missed training time afterward and did not work again until April 25.