10/22/2009 11:00PM

Nitro Active frequently contends, seldom wins

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Several times this year, Nitro Active has approached an allowance race with several things in his favor - a good distance, strong recent form, and opposition that looked beatable.

Too often in those circumstances, Nitro Active was beaten, seven times in eight starts this year. Sunday at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, once again Nitro Active appears poised for a win in a one-mile allowance race on turf.

"It looks like a field that he can beat," trainer Mike Machowsky said.

The allowance race is the feature race on a nine-race program. A minor stakes, the $55,000 California Sky Stakes, was scheduled but not used after it attracted insufficient entries. The California Sky will be offered again on Wednesday.

Nitro Active has not started since finishing eighth as the 2-1 favorite in a one-mile allowance on turf at Del Mar on Aug. 21. Machowsky said Nitro Active emerged from the race in need of a brief rest.

"He ran flat last time," Machowsky said. "He got bumped a little bit, but I don't think it was enough to make him run bad."

Nitro Active won a one-mile allowance race at Hollywood Park on June 4. He was a game second to Dewey's Special in the California Dreamin' Handicap for California-breds at Del Mar on July 26, overcoming traffic in early stretch to lose by three-quarters of a length.

Sunday's allowance race drew a field of eight, two of which are trained by Richard Mandella - Structural and Unbridled Papillon. Bert's Law, fourth in the California Cup Mile earlier this month, and Dynamic Range, second at this level on Sept. 30, also start.

The Mandella runners have distinct styles: Structural is a pacesetter, while Unbridled Papillon is a closer.

Structural beat maidens in a one-mile turf race at Del Mar on Aug. 9, and returned to finish fifth in an allowance race on the hillside turf course here on Oct. 4.

"With Structural, you've got to let him go," Mandella said. "You can't fight him."

Unbridled Papillon is making his turf debut. He was third in an allowance race here on Oct. 11, his first start against winners.