04/25/2009 12:00AM

Madeo seeking better trip

Benoit & Associates
Madeo will be reunited with jockey Mike Smith in Sunday's Grade 3 Inglewood Handicap.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Lone speed always threatens, even with an eight-month layoff. And an easy lead Sunday for comebacker Storm Military is why he enters the Grade 3 Inglewood Handicap at Hollywood Park as chief rival for a good, but unlucky, favorite.

Madeo, who by now could have achieved more than a Grade 2 win, stands out in the Inglewood at 1 1/16 miles on turf. Considering the checkered recent history of Madeo, it is surprising he has won 4 races and $403,715 from 12 starts for owners Jerry and Ann Moss.

Bad luck dogs Madeo. Recent starts include being blocked in the lane twice, pulled up and vanned off once, and an impossible trip from dead last three weeks ago in the Grade 2 Arcadia at Santa Anita.

"It was the first time Garrett [Gomez] had ridden him; he was a little far back," trainer John Shirreffs said.

Madeo ran each quarter-mile faster than the previous, but even a 22-and-change finish was not enough. Madeo missed by a length to Dixie Chatter. Two key changes Sunday should lead to victory for Madeo. He drops into a Grade 3 watered down by competition from the Grade 2 San Francisco Mile on Saturday at Golden Gate Fields.

Secondly, he is reunited with Mike Smith, who rode Madeo the first 11 starts of his career. The winner of the 2008 Del Mar Derby, Madeo should produce enough speed to be positioned within striking range of certain pacesetter Storm Military.

Bobby Frankel also entered Storm Military in the San Francisco Mile, but said Friday that the 7-year-old would run at Hollywood for his first start in eight months.

"I think he's pretty fit," Frankel said.

But is he good enough?

Storm Military has won 8 races and $328,022 from 19 starts; his only two wins since being imported from Argentina were ungraded stakes. Furthermore, the Inglewood is not the first race Storm Military entered with a pace advantage. His rival Madeo has a history of finding bad trips, but Storm Military has a history of squandering soft trips.

A win by another of the other seven would be a surprise, though stretch-out sprinter U S Ranger adds blinkers and goes long following a sixth-place comeback. His close fourth in the Breeders' Cup Mile makes him a threat for trainer Neil Drysdale. Worldly, Medjool, Silent Soul, Awesome Gem, Becrux, and Mr Napper Tandy also entered.