06/01/2005 12:00AM

Kilgowan primed for turf try


ALBANY, Calif. - Seven talented older runners meet in the Friday feature at Golden Gate Fields, with Kilgowan possibly set for his first victory since his upset win in last year's El Camino Real Derby.

drew the rail in the $80,000 optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Freshened after a rugged 3-year-old campaign, Kilgowan should be set for a big race.

"Going into this race, he's 99 percent fit," trainer Armando Lage said of Kilgowan, who will be making his third race since his comeback. "The timing for this race is right where I want it to be. Everything's going great. He's a big, really heavy horse that you have to train hard."

Kilgowan ran seventh in a Bay Meadows allowance April 23.

"I entered him to let him help run himself into shape," Lage said.

In his other race this year, Kilgowan finished second in a Golden Gate optional claiming race May 13.

"The last time he showed big improvement," Lage said. "He made a strong move but got a little tired at the end."

It there's a question surrounding Kilgowan in Friday's race, it's that the race is on turf, where he is 0 for 2. Five of his rivals are multiple winners on turf.

In his two turf tries, Kilgowan was fourth, losing a photo for show, in the Grade 3 Cinema Handicap at Hollywood Park, and seventh in the Grade 2 American Derby at Arlington Park. He was trained by Lonnie Arterburn for most of last year and turned over to Lage this year.

"He'd had a tough campaign, and they just decided to give him some time off, but as far as I know, there was no problem," Lage said.

The problem Friday, even if Kilgowan is cranked up for his best, is the presence of Group 1-placed King's County, who is looking for his first U.S. victory. He was stakes-placed in his U.S. debut in the Thunder Road at Santa Anita on Feb. 9.

closed well but missed by a nose at Bay Meadows in his last start. He has worked well at his Southern California base since that start.

, with seven turf victories, could also prove tough as he makes his first start since running fourth in the Turf Paradise Breeders' Cup Handicap on Feb. 12. Before that, he finished first and third in two races at this level.