01/25/2007 1:00AM

Mr. Pursuit clashes with More Than Regal


Mr. Pursuit, More Than Regal, and Student Council head a competitive mix of shippers and locals in Saturday night's $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup, the premier dirt race for older horses at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston.

The 1 1/8-mile handicap drew a field of 10, with Student Council and defending champ Middleweight invading from Fair Grounds, and More Than Regal, Charming Socialite, and Goosey Moose leading the cast from Sam Houston.

Mr. Pursuit has shipped in from Lone Star Park and will be making his first start since November. He is looking for his fourth consecutive win Saturday, following victories in an allowance, the $275,000 Oklahoma Derby, and the $75,000 Governor's Cup, all this past fall at Remington Park.

"We gave him a little freshening after Remington and aimed for this one," said Joe Petalino, who trains Mr. Pursuit. "I'm pretty comfortable with his fitness and all. He's had a few good works, and he had a lot of bottom in him."

Petalino said he targeted the Maxxam for Mr. Pursuit because of its distance. Mr. Pursuit is the 121-pound highweight and will break from post 5 under Cliff Berry.

"His best trip, really, is when he doesn't lay too far off of them," said Petalino.

More Than Regal closed out his 3-year-old season on Dec. 9 with a win over eventual stakes winner Guiding Hand in the $157,000 Zia Park Derby. More Than Regal also won the $250,000 Iowa Derby last year, and is looking for his first win at the nine-furlong distance.

"He was third in the West Virginia Derby at a mile and an eighth behind Bright One, and ran a good race," said Steve Asmussen, who trains More Than Regal. "He's a very honest sort."

More Than Regal will break from post 9 under Roman Chapa.

"I'm worried about enough pace in the race," said Asmussen. "He doesn't have to have it. If not, he kind of can make his own race to a degree. He's not a deep closer that is 1,000 percent dependent on it, but if they went too fast it would help him."

Student Council won an optional claimer at Fair Grounds in his last start Jan. 4. Trainer Neil Howard has given the mount to Robby Albarado.

Perfection on line for Sweet Idea

Sweet Idea has never lost at Sam Houston in five starts at the track, and she will put that record on the line in the $50,000 Sam Houston Distaff. The 1 1/16-mile race drew a field of nine fillies and mares, among them Plaid and defending champ Culinary.

Sweet Idea won her maiden, an allowance, and the $40,000 Sam Houston Oaks last meet in Houston, then came back to the track this meet and so far has won the $75,000 Martanza on Dec. 2 and the $25,000 Space City, an overnight stakes, in her last start Dec. 16.

"I don't know if it's the surface or the cooler temperatures of the winter, but whatever it's been, it's been pretty agreeable to her," trainer Bret Calhoun said of Sweet Idea's affinity for Sam Houston.

She will break from post 5 under Berry.

"She can be on or off the pace," said Calhoun. "She's pretty versatile."

Plaid is, too. "She can do anything you want her to do," said Asmussen, who trains the mare. "She's at the rider's discretion."

Plaid should go favored following her win last out in the $83,000 Chaves County at Zia. She earned a Beyer Figure of 98, the highest last-race number in the field Saturday.