09/20/2005 12:00AM

Irish Bar should like going longer


POMONA, Calif. - The key premise of handicapping is that horses replicate their performances - they do what they have done. It's obvious stuff, until a 2-year-old race such as Thursday's $60,000 Gateway to Glory Stakes at Fairplex Park comes along.

None of the Gateway to Glory starters has raced beyond 6 1/2 furlongs; on Thursday, the six young runners stretch out to 1 1/16 miles in a race that will determine their immediate futures. Some will be limited to sprint careers; others will improve at long distances, including favorite Irish Bar.

"Everything about this horse says distance," Irish Bar's trainer, Dan Hendricks, said. "His style, the way he works . . . he clips off [12-second splits] every eighth. And if he likes the distance, it's on to the Cal Cup."

won his second start by five lengths, finished third in a July 27 stakes for California-breds, then was off the remainder of Del Mar. He sat out the I'm Smokin on Sept. 5, while stablemate Brother Derek finished third.

"The only other Cal-bred stake was the I'm Smokin, and it didn't seem like a smart idea to run him against Brother Derek, so we decided to wait and run [Irish Bar] at Pomona," Hendricks said.

Good move. Irish Bar stands out in the Gateway to Glory. The Beyer Figures he earned in his last two starts (72 and 77) exceed any earned by his competition, and there is family precedent for Irish Bar to improve running long. Bartok's Blithe, a full sister to Irish Bar, won the $200,000 Melair Stakes at Hollywood Park in 2003 the first time she ran long.

Paul Atkinson rides Irish Bar in the Gateway to Glory, which will be the colt's prep for the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile on Nov. 6 at Santa Anita.

Irish Bar's main opponent on Thursday, Rattlesnake Joe, has one advantage: He is fast, and likely to set the pace. The question is - how far does Rattlesnake Joe really want to run?

was sired by long-distance stallion Concerto, but the female side of his pedigree is all sprint. Rattlesnake Joe's dam did not race beyond six furlongs; his two best siblings, Bold Pic and Book Note, were sprinters. Rattlesnake Joe has ability, however, and he was not exactly slowing down while winning a six-furlong maiden race last out at Del Mar with a creditable 70 Beyer. Nick Hines trains Rattlesnake Joe.

The four other Gateway to Glory starters are Eastwood, a maiden making his second start for leading trainer Doug O'Neill, late-running Say Tomorrow, Lomard, and Touch the Wood.