09/21/2006 11:00PM

No stars, but several to consider in Hinds

Southern Africa, winner of the Lone Star Derby last year, "has the right running style" to win at Fairplex, said his trainer, Mike Puhich.

POMONA, Calif. - A good, anonymous field will try to prove that name recognition is overrated Sunday at Fairplex Park in a 1 1/8-mile stakes that is the richest open race of the 2006 Los Angeles County Fair meet.

Only two of the 10 entered in the $125,000 Ralph M. Hinds Handicap have won graded stakes. Does it matter? Not to bettors. It would be hard to find a more evenly matched field than the meet's top race for older horses. Find the winner and get paid.

The Hinds is race 12 on a 13-race card, and analysis will waver right up to post time. The 120-pound highweight, Stormin Away, is not certain to start. He's the Rage had a subpar work early this week. Others come into the race with muddled form, including graded stakes winner Skipaslew.

Southern Africa won the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby last year, and his trainer, Mike Puhich, enters with guarded optimism for the colt's first start at Fairplex.

"You don't always have to have the best horse to win [at Fairplex]," Puhich said. "You have to get extremely lucky on the turns."

It takes an agile, versatile horse to win on the five-eighth-mile Fairplex oval. Southern Africa fits the description. He has won four races and $637,943 from 17 starts, tops in the Hinds field, and "has the right running style," Puhich said. The colt has tactical speed, he can finish, and Puhich expects a big effort Sunday under Jon Court.

Stormin Away finished second in a Fairplex stakes two weeks ago. Trainer Jeff Mullins, however, said the gelding is not a definite starter. Nor is the Mullins-trained Captain Squire in the best race on the Sunday card - the $65,000 Governor's Cup for sprinters.

Mullins said he would monitor the post draw before deciding whether to run Stormin Away in the Hinds. Friday morning he said Stormin Away could skip the Hinds and run Oct. 9 against Unfurl the Flag in the $60,000 War Chant stake at a mile on the Santa Anita turf.

Me My Mine is the most reliable horse in the Hinds lineup. A 6-year-old gelding, he has won 12 of 42 overall, 8 of his last 11, and four straight, including the Phil Shepherd Stakes on opening weekend. Trained by John Martin, Me My Mine has won seven races by a neck or less, and has never lost a photo finish.

He's the Rage has good recent form, but a slow workout on Monday left his connections disappointed. The Hinds also includes Top This and That, Cooperation, Florida Keys, Budget Surplus, and Itstufftobegood.