09/04/2008 11:00PM

New barn hopes claim of Tice is nice


POMONA, Calif. - If the veteran gelding Tice wins the $65,000 Phil D. Shepherd Stakes on Saturday at Fairplex Park, his swanky pedigree will have little to do with it.

Sired by Horse of the Year A.P. Indy and produced by champion filly Silverbulletday, Tice inherited only a fraction of his family's ability, and won just 3 of 15 starts for trainer Bob Baffert and owner Mike Pegram before entering a $50,000 claiming race Aug. 3.

At that point, trainer Jeff Mullins and owner Steve Beneto gambled by claiming Tice.

"We knew it was a roll of the dice, but we also knew he was going to be fit," Mullins said. "If he was sound, the plan was to run him in the Governor's Handicap."

Plans to run him in that Aug. 23 race at Sacramento were scrapped when Tice finished last, and a post-race exam showed why.

"He bled the day we claimed him, so we just freshened him up," Mullins said.

"I only have one breeze in him, but that might be all he needs. We're hoping that's the case."

Martin Pedroza rides Tice in the 1o1/16-mile Shepherd, which came up short on early pace. As the lone speed, Tice will try to lead from gate to wire in the three-turn race on the five-furlong Fairplex oval. During the 2007 Los Angeles County Fair meet, five of the 22 races at 1 1/16 miles on fast tracks were won by the pacesetter.

Six allowance-caliber horses are in the Shepherd, including Freesgood, whose best races are on dirt. Freesgood is 3 for 5 in dirt routes and 0 for 12 on synthetic. However, the worst dirt race by Freesgood was his only previous start on a bullring track like Fairplex's. As a 2-year-old, he finished fifth, beaten by more than 12 lengths, in a stakes on the six-furlong track at Delta Downs.

Frank the Barber won the Pomona Derby on a sloppy track last fall at Fairplex, and he should improve after a turf-sprint comeback at Del Mar that was a mere prep.

Gregorian Bay finished fourth in two allowance races at Del Mar. Austie and Norway House will be the longshots.

The Shepherd is race 12 on a 13-race card of small fields. Only five 2-year-old fillies entered race 5, the $65,000 Bustles and Bows Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs.

The favorite is Dash Dot Dash, sixth-place finisher last out in the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar. Vladimir Cerin trains Dash Dot Dash, expected to start at odds-on against Steam Iron, Amina, Chilliwack and Beaudacious Lady.