08/17/2006 11:00PM

Long Range defends his Mount Elbert title

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AURORA, Colo. - Trainer Earl McKinnon appears to have been waiting for Sunday's $25,000 Mount Elbert at Arapahoe Park, as he sends out Long Range in the 1 /16-mile race for Colorado-bred colts and geldings. But winning won't be easy, as Long Range is among a solid group of seven, including the multiple stakes winner Cajun Pepper.

Long Range's lone victory from six outings here last season came in the Mount Elbert, for owner Lewis Tuck. He won by 1 1/4 lengths, defeating Cut of Music and Tank Two, both of whom return in Sunday's lineup. McKinnon is hoping for a repeat.

Long Range comes into the race off a solid performance in the recent six-furlong Aspen Handicap, won by the front-running Cajun Pepper. Long Range rallied from off the pace six wide into the stretch and finished well to be third, beaten 2 3/4 lengths.

Long Range, off his Aspen performance and the added distance, is the slight choice on Sunday. Jockey Jeff Smith will be making his initial appearance aboard Long Range.

Trainer Jon Arnet has Cajun Pepper primed for the test. Cajun Pepper, 4, has not won or even run in a route race since his 3-year-old campaign.

Cajun Pepper won the first five races of his career in 2004 but has won only 2 of 11 starts since. He has yet to hit the board in two lifetime route races, but both were against in tough company, including a seventh-place finish in Sunland Park's WinStar Derby in 2005. Arnett has again named Travis Wales to ride.

Cut of Music, undefeated in two trips here this season, has not started since his victory in the seven-furlong Front Range here on July 4 - an all-out, half-length score against Tejano Jr. over a muddy surface.

Cut of Music, owned by his trainer, William Brownlee, in partnership with Max Story, is capable of the upset while seeking his third straight victory. Leading Jockey Orlando Martinez has the return call.

Tank Two, 9, is based at Arapahoe Park and has never left home to run anywhere else. Bred and owned by Grace Grover, Tank Two has made 29 lifetime starts, winning 7 and finishing on the board in 10 others.

Tank Two has one victory from four starts this year, in $12,500 claiming company on June 25. Russell Vicchrilli will again be aboard.