02/23/2007 1:00AM

Guiding Hand in best form of his career

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You could have claimed Guiding Hand for just $15,000 a bit over three months ago. Make that offer now and his connections would laugh you out of the room. That's because the 4-year-old gelding has won 3 of his last 4 and will likely be favored in Sunday's $50,000 Curribot Handicap at Sunland Park. The 1 1/16-mile event lured a field of 10.

A son of Helmsman, Guiding Hand had a modest career going at best at Lone Star and Remington Park. Trainer Chris Hartman gave him a late-summer freshening and he has come back a new horse.

Guiding Hand narrowly won a restricted claimer at Remington Oct. 23 and then went through the roof. He posted an 8 3/4-length win over first-level allowance foes there Nov. 6 for a 97 Beyer and then a runner-up finish in the Zia Park Derby at Zia Park Dec. 9.

Guiding Hand came here for the one-mile Winsham Lad Jan. 13, the first race of the series for older horses here, which includes the Curribot and the 1 1/8-mile Sunland Park Handicap April 21. He dueled for the early lead in the Winsham Lad and drew off to win easily by 3 1/2 lengths with a Beyer of 95. His speed and current form make him tough to beat. Ken Tohill rides again.

Real Dandy isn't exactly a win-machine - he hasn't won since taking an allowance race at Lone Star last May - but the 5-year-old horse is awfully reliable with his late run. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Real Dandy rallied to be third in Remington's Governor's Cup Nov. 28 and then rallied from far back, encountering traffic, to be second to Guiding Hand in the Winsham Lad. Alfredo Juarez Jr. rides.

Don't Strike Out won this race last year as the 7-5 favorite, but his form has taken a dive.

Paddy Murphy invades from Southern California for trainer Bill Tollett. He comes off a fifth in a tough optional claiming turf race at Santa Anita Feb. 10, and moves back to his preferred surface. Danny Sorenson comes in for the ride.