09/17/2004 12:00AM

Maidens get to chase $120K purse

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POMONA, Calif. - A maiden race with a $120,000 purse is the feature race Sunday at Fairplex Park. It was not supposed to happen that way.

The Barretts Juvenile is restricted to 2-year-old colts and geldings who were offered for sale at a Barretts auction. Only four years ago, it was won by subsequent Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Squirtle Squirt, and last year's winner, Don'tsellmeshort, was a multiple California-bred stakes winner.

But when entries were drawn for the 2004 Barretts Juvenile, the race came up without one winner in the field. Instead, seven maidens race 6 1/2 furlongs for a fat purse. Five are first-time starters, and even the connections of second-time starters Dover Dere and Beat the Chalk were smiling at their good fortune.

Jeff Mullins trains Beat the Chalk for owner Michael House, and he admits the Barretts Juvenile was not his first choice.

"I was going to go in a maiden race until the owner called and said, 'Why don't we take a shot in here?' " he said. "I'm glad we did - for $120,000."

Beat the Chalk ran better than most Mullins first-time starters in his Aug. 25 debut at Del Mar. "I told Victor [Espinoza] to let him break, let him settle, and let him make one run," Mullins said.

The colt, by Valid Wager, followed plans. He broke slowly, rallied wide into the lane, and finished fast for second in the $40,000 maiden claimer for California-breds. Beaten two lengths, Beat the Chalk figures to improve in his second start Sunday.

Leading jockey Martin Pedroza rides Beat the Chalk, who was purchased in October for $22,000. He will start as the second betting choice behind another second-timer whose debut was even more impressive.

Dover Dere faced highly regarded Fusaichi Rock Star on Aug. 7 in a maiden special weight at Del Mar. Dover Dere, by Cherokee Run, was bumped and squeezed at the start, then finished strongly without encouragement and galloped out in front of the field. Dover Dere is trained by Doug O'Neill, who led the standings into Friday with 5 wins from 14 starters.

The five firsters include Twice as Fabulous, whose sale price and works suggest he has ability. He was sired by Fabulous Fanny, who stands for a $3,000 stud fee, yet Twice as Fabulous went through the Barretts May sale for 35 times his sire's stud fee. Twice as Fabulous sold for $105,000. He is trained by John Sadler.