09/09/2008 12:00AM

Nice price looms in ninth


POMONA, Calif. - The unfortunate irony Thursday at Fairplex Park - Day 6 of the 16-day Los Angeles County Fair race meet - is that the most challenging race of the meet for handicappers happens to be stuck on the weakest card of the meet in terms of quality.

Seven of the 10 races Thursday are maiden claimers, but horseplayers able to muddle through the program will find an attractive allowance sprint as the race-9 feature. An evenly matched field of 10 California-breds will race 6 1/2 furlongs in the optional $40,000 claimer.

Bettors able to find the winner will be generously rewarded, because although favorites won 22 of the first 46 Thoroughbred races (48 percent) through Monday, there is no clear-cut choice in the 10-horse feature on Thursday. The favorite is likely to be 3-1 or higher.

One Chin Again is the horse to beat, even if his fifth-place finish last out might not be as good as it looks. One Chin Again never had a chance in the Real Good Deal Stakes for Cal-bred 3-year-olds, however, because he was caught five wide on the turn. At Del Mar, horses wide on the final turn of the main track end up in no-man's land and lose their punch.

It happened to One Chin Again, who lugged in through the lane and missed by 3 3/4 lengths. Doug O'Neill trains One Chin Again, whose recent improvement coincides with a campaign focused strictly on sprints. Martin Garcia rides One Chin Again, whose closing style should play well in against a field with three speedsters.

Watch Over Me, Steady Demand, and So Bewarned all run on the front end. They figure to set the table for a closer. Only three of the first 15 Fairplex races at 6 1/2 furlongs were won gate to wire, and each of those three front-running winners benefited from slow splits. The pace Thursday in race 9 is likely to be hot.

The closing style of Pack Your Bags should play well. He had a win and a second in two starts this summer at Del Mar in highly rated claiming races, and will be rolling late under Brice Blanc. Raingear, who may have been too close to

the pace last time, also will be finishing.

Scandalous missed by less than two lengths in his recent Del Mar comeback, his first start in more than nine months. Leading rider Martin Pedroza is up.

Lucky Honey, Storm Dragon, and Yes Talk to Me are the three outsiders.