08/13/2007 11:00PM

Long absence no problem for Warrior Song

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Like bread, fruit, and vegetables, fresh is best when it comes to Warrior Song. Now age 5, he has raced just nine times. Lengthy layoffs have pockmarked his career. But when he comes back from those vacations, he usually fires fresh. That history, combined with a race that is otherwise lacking in early speed, makes Warrior Song the one to catch, and beat, in the $85,000 Harry F. Brubaker Handicap on Thursday at Del Mar.

The Brubaker, at 1 1/16 miles on turf, lured six runners, three of whom, counting Warrior Song, have not raced this year. Whilly will be making his first start since December, and Chattahoochee War is making only his second start in 24 months.

Warrior Song led from start to finish in a 1 1/16-mile turf race here last summer when making his first start in five months. And in the summer of 2005 at Saratoga, when making his first start in 16 1/2 months, he won another 1 1/16-mile turf race in front-running fashion.

"I think he's going to run a big race," his trainer, Mike Machowsky, said at his barn on Thursday morning. "He ran well here last year. And he's been training very, very well."

Warrior Song needed time off to treat an ulcer on his epiglottis, Machowsky said.

"It got nasty," Machowsky said. "It was about the size of a quarter, and it was all serrated."

Chattahoochee War had a productive 3-year-old campaign in 2005, when he won a pair of stakes races and was third in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes. But this will be just his second start since the Secretariat. He returned from a one-year layoff to finish second in an allowance race at Saratoga last summer, then needed more time off.

"He was a little sore with his ankles," said Humberto Ascanio, the assistant who oversees trainer Bobby Frankel's West Coast division. "It's taken awhile, but he's doing good now. I think he's going to run good."

Whilly won the American Handicap at Hollywood Park in July 2005, but was winless in five starts last year and has been idle since December.

Quasimodo figures to improve off a troubled comeback effort in the Wickerr Handicap on July 27, his first start since October. Of concern, though, is that he has yet to finish in the money in a Del Mar grass race, yet has won 4 of 5 on turf elsewhere.

Fast and Furious was fourth in the Eddie Read Handicap July 22. This is the softest group he's faced in months.