10/11/2003 12:00AM

'Groom' back at favorite track

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Returning to the comfort of Santa Anita could help Groom on the Run end a five-race losing streak in a $49,000 optional claimer on Monday.

Groom on the Run's last victory came in an optional claimer over 1 1/8 miles on turf here in February. Monday, the 4-year-old gelding is one of seven starters in a turf race over 1 1/4 miles.

Trained by Dean Greenman for Kirk and Judy Robison, Groom on the Run is part of a moderate field. Several of the starters have run well recently, but the race lacks a standout.

Tombstone has been second and third in one-mile allowance races at Del Mar and Santa Anita, and stretches out for the longest race of his career.

Justice Minister will benefit from the distance. Trained by Kristin Mulhall, he was a close fourth in an optional claimer over 1 3/16 miles at Hollywood Park on July 6 and finished fast when fifth over 1 3/8 miles at Del Mar on July 24.

April Steel is suited by the distance and will set the pace.

Groom on the Run will come from the behind, which has caused problems for him at times. Against Justice Minister on July 24, he lost all chance when blocked in midstretch and finished sixth.

He reappeared in a first-condition allowance race on Aug. 27 and finished third behind Allover, who set a course record of 1:39.84 for 1 1/16 miles.

"I thought he ran great, but he ran into a track record," Greenman said.

Greenman is using Monday's race as a prep for the $250,000 California Cup Classic over 1 1/8 miles on dirt on Nov. 8. Last year, Groom on the Run finished sixth in the Cal Cup Classic at 38-1, and he would have been closer were it not for trouble in the stretch.

Most of Groom on the Run's success has come on turf. A win on Monday would put him over $200,000 in career earnings.

"He ran well on this turf course last year," Greenman said. "He tries hard all the time."