04/11/2008 12:00AM

Iron Duke hard to beat


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Trainer Mark Rheinford seems to be sitting pretty with Iron Duke going into Sunday's second leg of the Triple Play Series, a three-race series for $10,000 claimers at Bay Meadows.

Rheinford won a 25-way shake for Iron Duke in the first leg of the series on March 16. All Iron Duke did that day was defeat Sidepocket Cat by five lengths to win the first of two divisions, running 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.09.

Bonfire Burt won the second division in 1:45.01.

Sunday's second leg is at 1 1/8 miles, and all 13 from the two divisions of the first leg will run back in this race, carded as the eighth. The series concludes on May 10 with a 1o1/4-mile race. Horses were eligible to be claimed in the first leg of the series, but not in Sunday's race, which offers a purse of $20,000, or the finale, which could be worth as much as $60,000. The finale is open only to horses that ran in the first two legs.

Distance is no problem for Iron Duke. In fact, Rheinford claimed Iron Duke in part because of his strong effort in the 1 1/2-mile Cal Cup Starter Handicap last November. Though he faded to fifth, Iron Duke was second at the eighth pole, only one length behind winner Lil Mitch.

"He's already proven he can get a distance and has stamina," Rheinford said.

Bonfire Burt led wire to wire in his division of the first leg, and has won at 1 1/4 miles on the lead. There is enough speed in Sunday's race that he might come from off the pace.

"He could be better off sitting a couple lengths off the lead if he's going comfortably," said his trainer, John Buc.

Armando Lage trains Trato, who finished fifth behind Bonfire Burt. He is hoping an honest pace gives his horse a better shot Sunday.

"Both of the [first leg] winners have speed, so the race will be honest," he said. "I know they ran much faster in the first division, but maybe running that fast took something out of those horses."

Sunday's card also includes two optional claiming races and a straight maiden race.

Tiz Madison, who comes off a maiden victory, meets five rivals in a $32,000 optional claimer at six furlongs on the main track. Sweet Hope, who graduated over Polytrack in Great Britain, makes her U.S. debut in the race.

Pamelot runs in a $25,000 optional claimer at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf. She won a starter allowance race at the same distance on the turf here.

Three riders sit out suspensions

Jockeys Omar Figueroa, Inoel Beato, and Roberto Gonzalez will be sitting out three-day suspensions Sunday, Monday, and next Thursday for causing interference April 6.

Figueroa was disqualified from seventh to eighth aboard Vaderator in the California Turf Sprint Handicap when his mount drifted in down the backstretch. Beato and Gonzalez were aboard horses who bothered winner Da Nicky in the stretch in the fifth race, a $32,000 maiden claimer at 1o1/16 miles on the turf.