09/18/2008 11:00PM

Freesgood continues to shine on dirt

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ARCADIA, Calif. - In the current circumstances of California racing, Freesgood is a throwback. He prefers dirt on a circuit dominated by synthetic tracks.

Freesgood won an optional claimer on dirt at now-defunct Bay Meadows in March and the Phil Shepherd Stakes on dirt at Fairplex Park on Sept. 6. The strength of the latter win makes Freesgood a top contender in Sunday's $125,000 Ralph Hinds Invitational Handicap on dirt at Fairplex Park.

"He loves the dirt," trainer and co-owner Bill Currin said. "The horse is in great shape."

The Hinds is one of four stakes for Thoroughbreds on Sunday's 13-race program at Fairplex Park. The Los Angeles County Fair meeting ends Monday; the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting begins Wednesday.

Freesgood is part of a nine-horse field in the Hinds, which is run at about 1 1/8 miles. A 4-year-old colt co-owned by Al Eisman, Freesgood has won 4 of 21 starts. He was winless in 10 starts last year and has made just five starts this year.

"I haven't overburdened him," Currin said.

In the Shepherd Stakes, Freesgood was near the front throughout. He trailed by a head on the backstretch, by a length at the top of the stretch, but won by a half-length over Tice, who is part of the Hinds field.

In the Hinds, Freesgood carries 117 pounds, one less than topweight Dixie Meister, who is trained by Julio Canani for Gary Tanaka.

Dixie Meister won the Grade 2 Californian Stakes in 2006 and the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap in 2007, but is winless in three starts this year. Dixie Meister was sixth in the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap as a 15-1 outsider at Hollywood Park in June, his most recent start. Canani said Dixie Meister emerged from that race with a bruised foot.

Canani admits that Dixie Meister needs a win to regain his form from 2006-07.

"We're going to find out" how he's doing, Canani said. "I put him in there because he runs on the dirt."

While Dixie Meister's recent starts have been a disappointment, Canani said he has been encouraged by the way the 6-year-old gelding has trained at Santa Anita in recent weeks.

"He worked 58 [seconds] and 1:11 and he's doing good," Canani said.

In addition to Tice, who appears to have been a shrewd claim for $50,000 last month by Steve Beneto and Jeff Mullins, Sensational Score has a strong chance. He was fourth in the Claiming Crown Jewel last month.