05/29/2002 11:00PM

Line Rider turns up pressure

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - When Line Rider stormed down the middle of the track to win the Harry Henson Stakes at Hollywood Park on April 24, trainer Mike Machowsky knew he had a tough job ahead of him.

The Henson Stakes was Line Rider's final start with trainer Tim Pinfield, who was breaking up his stable before moving to Singapore. Machowsky watched Line Rider that day knowing the partnership that owns the colt had selected him as the next trainer.

"That put a little pressure on me," Machowsky said.

Line Rider has been with Machowsky for a month and starts on Saturday in the $100,000 Will Rogers Stakes over a mile on turf for 3-year-olds. The Grade 3 Will Rogers is Line Rider's first start beyond seven furlongs.

He faces five others: European stakes winners Six Hitter and True Phenomenon; Doc Holiday, who has placed in two stakes this year; Johar, who was fourth in the La Puente Stakes at Santa Anita in April; and the maiden Golden Arrow.

Line Rider has essentially had two careers. Last year, he was stakes-placed in Ireland before becoming the pacesetter for Johannesburg in Group 1 races in Ireland, France, and England. In each of those races, he faded from contention in the final quarter-mile.

"He was a punching bag in Europe, but he's useful over here," Machowsky said.

Bought privately over the winter, Line Rider finished fifth in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes in his only career start on dirt in February, and was second to Regiment in an allowance race on the hillside turf course on April 11.

Pinfield shared his notes with Machowsky after the Harry Henson Stakes. In the last month, Machowsky has learned first-hand how eager Line Rider can be in the mornings.

"Tim informed me about him and we found out a few things about him," Machowsky said. "He can be an aggressive horse and you need to do something with him every day. He's a very good-feeling horse."

Although he has never been on the lead in this country, Line Rider will be close to the pace in the Will Rogers. The expected leader is Doc Holiday, who pressed the pace in the La Puente and the Ascot Handicap at Bay Meadows before finishing second in each.

Ideally, Machowsky would prefer that Line Rider race behind Doc Holiday.

"The way he runs, I don't see any reason he won't get a mile," Machowsky said. "The only reason he won't get a mile is because he gets outrun. I hope to get him covered up. I hope he's good enough to go long."

If Doc Holiday and Line Rider set a quick pace, there will be several closers in an ideal position.

Trainer Bobby Frankel has two starters - Six Hitter, who finished fifth as the favorite in the Ascot Handicap, and True Phenomenon, who won three starts in France in January and February.

Owned by Stonerside Stable, True Phenomenon was stakes placed at a mile as a 2-year-old in Toulouse, France, and subsequently raced at provincial tracks there. At Cagnes-sur-Mer, a winter track in the south of France, True Phenomenon won a minor stakes over 7 1/2 furlongs as a heavy favorite Feb. 16.

The Frankel pair may have first run on Johar, a closer who may go favored.

Johar has not started since the La Puente, when he finished 4 1/2 lengths behind the winner, Mountain Rage. Trained by Richard Mandella, Johar was an impressive winner of two turf races at Santa Anita prior to the La Puente.

"He's a little bit of a hot-blooded horse," Mandella said. "He got wound up too much in the La Puente. We backed off a little to go for this race."

Johar has since worked well on turf, giving Mandella the hope that the colt can redeem himself in his graded stakes debut.

"I think he's a good horse, a very good one," Mandella said.

THE FIELD

WILL ROGERS STAKES

Purse: $100,000; 1 mile turf; Grade 3

PPHORSEJOCKEYWTODDS
1Doc HolidayD. Flores1156-1
2JoharA. Solis1198-5
3Line RiderM. Smith1158-1
4Golden ArrowV. Espinoza11510-1
5True PhenomenonK. Desormeaux1155-2
6Six HitterJ. Valdivia1159-2

Odds by Michael Hammersly

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