05/10/2013 4:18PM

Hollywood Park: Dhaamer out to rebound in Round Table

Benoit & Associates
Dhaamer, with Julien Leparoux riding, wins the Grade 3 Sunset.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – A polite review of Dhaamer says he fell short of expectations in his comeback March 23.

The truth is it was an utter disaster. Dhaamer finished a bad sixth in the Grade 3 Tokyo City, losing by a double-digit margin as second betting choice. Want an excuse? Plenty are available.

Perhaps jockey error contributed to the worst showing by Dhaamer since arriving from England. Dhaamer, a one-run closer, was inexplicably positioned close to the pace. Denied his preferred style, he faded.

Perhaps the choice of 1 1/2-mile dirt race for his first start in seven months was overly ambitious, though it worked fine a year ago when Dhaamer made his U.S. debut in the same race and missed by a neck.

Or maybe Dhaamer, a 6-year-old gelding, is simply not as good as last season. Horses wear out. They slow down. They need easier competition.

Trainer Mike Mitchell does not buy it. He expects Dhaamer will return to form Sunday in the $70,000 Round Table Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park. If Mitchell is right, Dhaamer should win the 1 1/2-mile turf race. If not, pick a number.

Three geldings, two mares, and a colt make up the six-runner Round Table field. Lime Rickey enters off a good fourth in the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano. Diamondsdiplomat has speed as a weapon, but front-running mare Little Emily will keep him honest.

Niagara Falls won a maiden race one week ago, while the mare Madera Castana is off form. That leaves Dhaamer as deserving favorite and most probable winner on the card, despite his comeback.

“It seemed like he was a little too close to the pace,” Mitchell said.

“With this little horse, I don’t care how much speed is in there, he’ll come running. You just can’t use him early.”

It worked in 2012 when Dhaamer emerged as a long-distance specialist through a five-start campaign for owners Edward Brown and Jay Manoogian. After missing by a neck in the Tokyo City and running fourth in the San Juan, Dhaamer romped in the Round Table and Grade 3 Sunset, before losing a photo in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap.

It was a successful 2012, and plenty for one season. Mitchell put him away for a 2013 campaign aimed at a similar series of races. Mitchell is confident Dhaamer will fire Sunday and win the Round Table again.

On paper, his rivals are not in his league.

“He’s a neat little horse, and he’s doing so good,” Mitchell said.

“He’s not a great big horse, he’s not tall. When you look at him, he just does not look like a mile and a half horse. But when you look at his stride, the way he reaches out . . . he’s got a long stride.”

Dhaamer reunites Sunday with jockey Garrett Gomez. It is a perfect match. Among Gomez’s attributes is an ability to anchor early and close ground late. The best races last year by Dhaamer were when he employed that strategy.

“If you look at his form, the only really bad race was the San Juan,”

Mitchell said. “Was that too far for him? So we just skipped the San Juan [this year]. I want to keep him going through the meet here and Del Mar.”