09/25/2002 11:00PM

This may be too far for Fonz's

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POMONA, Calif. - A onetime prospect for the Kentucky Derby, Fonz's faces lesser competition Saturday at Fairplex Park, where he will start as one of the favorites in the $100,000 Pomona Derby for 3-year-olds.

A field of 10 entered the Derby, and Fonz's vulnerability is clear - at 1 1/8 miles the Derby is a virtual marathon for the good sprinter. Trainer David La Croix recognizes the problem. The longer the race, the less effective Fonz's becomes.

"All the good races for 3-year-olds are [routes]," La Croix said. "And he hasn't run bad enough for me to say I'm never going to two-turn him."

La Croix added that Fonz's may campaign this winter at Aqueduct, but for now, Fonz's enters the Pomona Derby as the class of the field with two wins and earnings of $349,645 from 10 starts. Tyler Baze rides Fonz's, who finished fourth in his most recent start at Del Mar.

The vulnerability of Fonz's makes the Pomona Derby an intriguing contest for bettors. Wagering options include Paxtecum, close third in the El Cajon last out at Del Mar; Asong for Billy, rapidly improved since being claimed by Paul Aguirre; and Bold Mango, winner of the Derby Trial 12 days ago. Longshots Chory Four, Mutinyonthebounty, Splendid Times, Highly Suspect, Six G's, and Sunkosi complete the field.

Paxtecum won his first two starts last fall to emerge as a potential stakes runner. He floundered, however, and finished fourth on a soggy turf course in the Grade 3 Generous in November, and came of the race worse for wear.

"He never was right after I ran him in that bog," trainer Mike Machowsky said. Paxtecum ran once more, but became body sore and was shelved. Paxtecum returned Sept. 6 from an eight-month layoff in the one-mile El Cajon, put in an extended three-furlong run, and came up short by a neck. Paxtecum, who has won 2 of 5, will be ridden by David Flores and enters as the most likely winner.

Amber Hills romps

Even-money Amber Hills ran herself into favoritism for the $100,000 California Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita with a crushing victory Wednesday in the $50,000 Black Swan Stakes.

Ridden by Martin Pedroza, Amber Hills ($4) won the 1 1/16-mile Black Swan by 6 3/4 lengths over Iza Beauty. Amber Hills, trained by Ed Moger, is owned by Curt and Lila Lanning.

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