08/03/2007 11:00PM

Hot trainer sends My Man Murf


DEL MAR, Calif. - With four winners from his first nine starters at Del Mar, trainer Rafael Becerra is in his best form of the year. And he expects it to continue.

"The owners have been patient," Becerra said. "They let me do what I want. We've got some some fresh horses."

Monday at Del Mar, Becerra has a contender in the seventh race - My Man Murf, who starts in an optional claimer for California-breds over 61/2 furlongs. My Man Murf will be making his first start on Del Mar's synthetic Polytrack surface after three losses on turf, but Becerra is confident the colt can be effective.

Jockey Jose Valdivia advised Becerra to try My Man Murf on a surface other than turf.

"Jose has been telling me that he runs better on the main track," Becerra said. "He didn't run badly on the turf, but he doesn't accelerate."

Owned by a partnership, My Man Murf, 3, has won 2 of 6 starts and $54,180. My Man Murf was claimed for $32,000 from a maiden race in his debut in February and won his first two starts for Becerra - a $40,000 maiden claimer and a starter allowance, both on dirt at Santa Anita.

In three allowance race for statebreds on turf at Hollywood Park, My Man Murf was second, third, and fourth, always finishing within two lengths of the winner.

In Monday's race, My Man Murf has drawn post 11 in a field of 12, and will be well off the leaders for the first half-mile, Becerra said.

"He's more aggressive in company," Becerra said. "I like that he comes from off the pace."

One colt expected to be near the front is Acquire the Fire, who finished third in the Forrest White Stakes at the San Joaquin County fair in Stockton in June. Trained by Jeff Bonde, Acquire the Fire was making his second start of the year in the White Stakes, having finished a game second in an optional claimer at Golden Gate Fields in June.

Scandalous may be favored in Monday's race. Trained by Darrell Vienna, Scandalous has not run worse than third in four starts, including a victory in the NTRA Stakes for maidens at Hollywood Park on April 29. Scandalous returned to finish second behind the Becerra-trained Celtic Dreamin in an allowance race on June 14.

"I'd like to see him a little farther back than he's been before," said Vienna's son and assistant, Cris. "That will help him relax a little better."