05/09/2007 11:00PM

Murray field lacking in pace


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - On the Acorn's only loss this year, a third-place finish in the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo Handicap at Santa Anita in February, still bothers trainer Mike Mitchell.

"I thought he should have won if he'd had the right trip," Mitchell said.

From Mitchell's perspective, On the Acorn should be after his fifth consecutive win in Saturday's $250,000 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park. Instead, On the Acorn can win his second consecutive stakes, and solidify his position at the top of California's distance turf division.

On the Acorn won the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap over about 1 3/4 miles on turf at Santa Anita on April 22 and has rebounded well enough to be entered in the Murray over 1 1/2 miles on turf.

The San Juan was On the Acorn's first stakes win, and quite an achievement considering he was claimed last November for $40,000 by the six-person Indizguys Stable partnership. Since then, On the Acorn, 6, has won two allowance races before losing by a half-length in the San Luis Obispo. He was promoted to second after a rival was disqualified for causing interference in the stretch.

The San Luis Obispo took its toll, Mitchell said.

"He was just really wiped out from the race," Mitchell said. "I think he really ran his heart out. He just laid down and slept."

Though a longer race, the San Juan did not have the same effect.

"He's just super," Mitchell said on Thursday.

The Murray could be run in the same style as the San Juan Capistrano - void of pace.

The field of six lacks a confirmed front-runner. Notable Guest and Prospect Park, second and third in the San Luis Rey Handicap on March 24, are closers, as is Fitz Flag, who was third in the San Juan Capistrano.

Mitchell says a slow pace will not hurt On the Acorn.

"I think we all run the same way," he said of the Murray field. "I don't have to him behind horses to rate, which is really good if you're in a paceless race. You don't have to get him behind slower horses."

Prospect Park, a stakes winner in France in 2005, is seeking his first victory in this country.

The San Luis Rey "kind of knocked him out a little bit," trainer Richard Mandella said. "I gave him some time to get back to this. I thought he made a big improvement the other day. If he stays like that, I'll be happy."