08/08/2005 11:00PM

Honorable Coach one to watch

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DEL MAR, Calif. - There's no questioning the talent of Honorable Coach, who is graded stakes placed. It's his disposition that has trainer John Shirreffs keeping a close eye on him.

"He's been a little anxious," Shirreffs said.

That tendency will require bettors to pay close attention to Honorable Coach when he starts in a $60,000 optional claimer at a mile on turf at Del Mar on Thursday. If Honorable Coach is unsettled in the post parade - sweating or appearing to be uncooperative - he may be one to avoid. If he behaves well with jockey Victor Espinoza, Honorable Coach has an excellent chance to win.

"We're looking for him to relax and not be too rank," Shirreffs said. "He needs to have a more enjoyable experience."

has drawn the outside post in a field of five. Honorable Coach has one victory in seven starts. He followed a maiden win in early June with a third to Willow O Wisp in the Grade 3 Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf at Hollywood Park on June 26. Honorable Coach was beaten four lengths after racing near the front.

Shirreffs had hoped to start Honorable Coach earlier at this meeting, but the gelding had a bad experience while schooling, he said.

"We wanted to run him on opening weekend, but he got really hot" in the paddock, Shirreffs said.

As a result, Shirreffs sometimes takes Honorable Coach to the training track in the mornings to vary his exercise schedule. The main track in the mornings resembles action on "a freeway," Shirreffs said.

"If you overdo it, they can get too worked up," Shirreffs said.

Honorable Coach is opposed by four promising 3-year-olds.

finished second in two stakes, including the Grade 2 San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita last winter. He has not started since finishing fifth in the Grade 3 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on Feb. 12.

finished fourth in the second division of the Oceanside Stakes here on July 20, his first start against winners and first start since March.

Roy's Last Roar finished a troubled eighth here on July 28, a day he was claimed for $62,500 by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

Petrus was second in an optional claimer here July 25. Trained by Neil Drysdale, Petrus was making his first start since finishing sixth in the Grade 3 Generous Stakes last November.