01/13/2005 1:00AM

Leon's Bull tops field off two-month layoff


Leon's Bull, who has won 6 of 7 career starts, will return from a two-month layoff Saturday in the $132,450 Pepsi Cola Handicap at Sunland Park. The six-furlong race is restricted to 3-year-olds bred in New Mexico. Other top contenders in the 12-horse field include stakes winners Sandias Peppermint and Oso Tricky.

Leon's Bull suffered the first defeat of his career last out, a troubled sixth in the $92,000 Totah Futurity at SunRay Park on Oct. 26.

"Another horse tore his wraps off, and gashed him," said Leon Sutherland, who bred and owns Leon's Bull.

Leon's Bull was given time to heal from the laceration to his left hind leg, and in his final prep for the Pepsi worked three furlongs in a bullet 36 seconds on Jan. 10. He will break from post 7, and leading rider Ken Tohill has the mount for trainer Jose Gonzalez Jr.

"The jockey and trainer both said he's as ready as he's ever been," said Sutherland.

That is saying a lot. Leon's Bull won the first six races of his career by a combined 28 1/4 lengths, beginning with a 10 1/4-length debut win against statebreds on June 19. He has won two futurities, and has won races on the front end and from stalking positions.

"He can do whatever they want him to do," said Sutherland.

The chief late threat will be Sandias Peppermint, who cuts back to one turn after winning the $131,000 Red Hedeman Mile wire to wire in his last start Nov. 21. Overall, the colt, who has won three races at sprint distances, has won 4 of 7 starts. Trainer Jackie Riddle has given the mount to Casey Lambert.

Oso Tricky will also be returning from a two-month layoff. He won the Copper Top Futurity at Sunland in April, and shows a series of steady works for his first start since Oct. 26. Glen Murphy has the mount for trainer Ray Ashford Jr.