Updated on 09/17/2011 10:43AM

Nine furlongs ideal distance for Western Pride


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The conditions of the $400,000 Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park should benefit likely favorite Western Pride.

The Grade 2 stakes is run over 1 1/8 miles on the main track, a distance that is ideal for the 5-year-old Western Pride, according to trainer Jim Chapman.

"I don't think he gets better at a mile and a quarter," Chapman said. "At a mile and an eighth, that's where he does all his good [running]."

In the Californian, Western Pride faces six other stakes winners - Calkins Road, Gondolieri, Kudos, Piensa Sonando, Reba's Gold, and Wooden Phone - and the stakes-placed Fleetstreet Dancer.

Western Pride may have a tactical advantage. He typically races on or near the lead, and can win with either style. He could face pressure from Gondolieri, the winner of the Inglewood Handicap on May 3, and Wooden Phone, the winner of the 2002 San Pasqual Handicap, but there are doubts surrounding their chances. Gondolieri won a four-runner race in the Inglewood that was originally scheduled for turf. Wooden Phone is winless in two starts this year after returning from injury.

Chapman says he will not urge jockey Patrick Valenzuela to send Western Pride to the front.

"He's got a high cruising speed," Chapman said. "I don't think you'd want to take him back, but if there was a speed horse he doesn't have to go with them."

If the pace is too hot, there are several closers capable of winning. Kudos, who won the 2002 Oaklawn Handicap, will be coming from off the pace, as will the stalker Reba's Gold, the winner of the Seabiscuit Handicap at Bay Meadows, and Piensa Sonando, who won the Native Diver Handicap here last December.

Kudos is winless in three starts this year since returning from a layoff caused by injury. In all his starts this year, Kudos has faced top handicap horses. He was second to Congaree in the San Pasqual Handicap, third to Milwaukee Brew in the Santa Anita Handicap, and third to Medaglia d'Oro in the Oaklawn Handicap.

Kudos missed last month's Mervyn LeRoy Handicap because trainer Richard Mandella wanted to focus on the Californian and the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup over 1 1/4 miles on July 13. A win would make the 6-year-old Kudos a millionaire.

"I chose to miss the other race because I want to run in the Gold Cup. I want the longer races and not the shorter races."