Updated on 09/16/2011 8:13AM

Line Rider poised to win Foothill

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POMONA, Calif. - Trainer Mike Machowsky has been pointing Line Rider to the $50,000 Foothill Stakes for several weeks. While that fact alone does not guarantee victory for the 3-year-old on Friday, opening day of the Los Angeles County Fair meet at Fairplex Park, it does reveal positive intent.

"I think he'll be real tough against straight 3-year-olds, and he's a horse that should love that [five-eighths-mile] track," Machowsky said. "He's very agile, he's very coordinated."

He also is good. Line Rider won the Harry Henson Stakes on turf during the summer meet at Hollywood Park, was unable to stay two turns in the Will Rogers, and was given most of the summer off. He returned in a tough allowance against older on Aug. 18, finished sixth, and drops in class Friday.

Line Rider is one of 10 3-year-olds who entered the six-furlong Foothill, the traditional opening-day feature at the L.A. County Fair. His rivals include Crooked Key, who scored an 8-1 upset at Fairplex last year as a 2-year-old; speedball Mighty David; Affirm Cat and Chaos N Confusion, each claimed from losses last out for $62,500; and Pickled Bay, claimed for $50,000 in his last start. From A to Z, who had a tough trip in the Harry Henson won by Line Rider, is among the longshot contenders. Other starters include Road Grader, Saphir Indien, and Laffit.

Machowsky is not expected to be one of the most active trainers at the Fair, but he could have starters in several big races. He said a good effort Friday by Line Rider would be cause to bring him back Sept. 29 in the 6 1/2-furlong Governor's Cup against older. He is pointing El Cajon third-place finisher Paxtecum to the $100,000 Pomona Derby on Sept. 28, and may seek an invitation for Timber Baron to the $100,000 Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Invitational Handicap on Sept. 29.

Crooked Key's allowance upset here last meet is reason for trainer Mike Harrington to consider him a strong candidate to win the Foothill. "I think he's a better turf horse than dirt horse, but they don't run many turf races at Pomona," Harrington said.

In fact, they don't run any. But as Harrington added: "Turf horses run well at Pomona; the turns are shorter on turf, and shorter at Pomona. It takes a quicker, athletic-type horse."

Mullins locked but not loaded

Although trainer Jeff Mullins led the standings last year with 11 winners during the 17-day Fairplex meet, he enters the 2002 meet with some trepidation. Mullins has 33 horses stabled at Fairplex. "We've got a lot of numbers, but we're not that loaded," he said.

Mullins's barn was hit with the sickness that swept the Del Mar backstretch. At entry time Wednesday, Mullins said "In past years, I'd have my whole condition book marked by now. Now, I only have the first two days marked."

His main guns at Fairplex will be Pomona Derby candidate Captain Squire, and Lookn Mighty Fine, who may start Sunday in the $50,000 E.B. Johnston Stakes.

Bear Fan will try the turf

Unbeaten filly Bear Fan, who won her third straight July 28 at Del Mar in the Fleet Treat Stakes for 3-year-old California-bred fillies, will switch to grass Nov. 2 in the California Cup Distaff during the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita. Wesley Ward, trainer and co-owner, said Bear Fan, a daughter of Pine Bluff, needed some time off following a 7 1/2-length win in the Fleet Treat in 1:22.72 for seven furlongs. Bear Fan earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure.

"She ran a 3 on sheets," Ward said. "When they run that big, even when they act good and look good, I like to give them some time."

Beyond the Cal Cup Distaff being a $150,000 restricted race in which Bear Fan would be heavily favored, there are further considerations to running her there. Ward said a good effort in her first turf start would be reason enough to send Bear Fan to Hong Kong for a $1 million sprint later this year.

Mules, mules, mules

Black Ruby and Taz - those two racing mules - go at it again Saturday at Fairplex Park. A non-wagering exhibition held Sunday at Del Mar resulted in a two-length win by Black Ruby over Taz. Both mules carried 129 pounds in the 400-yard race, but a five-pound weight shift and shorter distance (350 yards) could narrow the gap Saturday at Fairplex. Handicappers will consider other factors, also.

Taz did not break as sharp as usual on Sunday, and when Black Ruby crossed into Taz's lane after 250 yards, it caused Taz to shift to her wrong lead. Would it have made a difference? Probably not. But it's something to remember when Fairplex offers win betting for the 5:45 p.m. race, which will be held after the final Thoroughbred race. The preliminary odds line has Black Ruby at 2-5 and Taz at even-money.