10/13/2006 12:00AM

First stakes for Father John


It is far too soon to speculate whether any of the eight colts and geldings entered in the $40,000 Hillsdale Stakes on Sunday at Hoosier Park can match the success of the race's namesake, the most accomplished Indiana-bred in 50 years. But at least one of the race's promising statebred 2-year-olds has already shown himself to be of unusually high quality.

Father John sparkled in his debut against statebreds last month, winning by nearly 10 lengths and earning a 79 Beyer. On the basis of that performance, Father John figures to be an odds-on favorite in the Hillsdale, which is run at 5 1/2 furlongs.

In addition to his high speed, Father John has other factors working in his favor. A recent five-furlong breeze in 58.60 seconds, the fastest of the day at the distance, suggests he has maintained his edge. There is also a family connection to consider. Father Art, a half-brother to Father John, captured the 2005 Hillsdale.

For those unconvinced of Father John's credentials, there are a few others in the Hillsdale worth watching. Mo Faster was also a dominant winner of his debut by more than nine lengths, though his Beyer was only 55. Need Money Dad and B. B. Mancini have each placed in open allowance company.

Hillsdale was an Indiana-bred ex-claimer whose head loss to Sword Dancer in the 1959 Woodward cost him Horse of the Year honors.