06/13/2012 11:39AM

Northlands: Desert Train on upswing entering Friday feature

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Desert Train improved dramatically in his first start at Northlands Park and if he continues his progress he should be able to stand the jump in class when he runs in a $22,000 claiming race that headlines Friday’s nine-race card. The 6 1/2-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up drew eight horses and Desert Train is just one possibility in a competitive race.

Trained by Ryan Preece, Desert Train made a strong late run to win a $15,000 claiming race by 3 3/4 lengths, and it was a much-improved performance compared to his last couple of races, which came at Turf Paradise. In both of those races he was never a factor while finishing fifth in $8,000 claiming races. Desert Train received a 75 Beyer Speed Figure for his sharp win, which equaled the career best he earned in an $8,000 claiming race at Turf Paradise last November.

There is the possibility Desert Train will bounce following his surprising performance, but the shape of the race could work in his favor, and he should save a lot of ground leaving from post 1.

Ruben Lara picks up the mount from Ismael Mosqueira, who rides Yo Claudio.

An honest pace will be provided by either Montellano or Robo Willie, or both. If they do hook up early it is hard to see either of them lasting the whole way.

Montellano set fast fractions on his way to an easy win over Indian Love in a $10,000 claiming race June 3 and was claimed out of the race by trainer Cody Anderson, who was acting on his own behalf. Montellano earned a career-best 85 Beyer Speed Figure for his win, and if he can reproduce that figure he will likely repeat. Last year he won a $32,000 claiming race at Santa Anita in February and then lost by a nose for $40,000 in his next start, so he is capable of handling the jump in class. Will he be able to withstand what figures to be considerable pressure from Robo Willie is another question.

Robo Willie was claimed out of his win for $15,000 May 23 by trainer Rick Wise, who was acting on behalf of Kirk Sutherland. A 6-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding, Robo Willie won five stakes races as a 2- and 3-year-old and has been a solid higher-claiming and allowance horse since then, compiling a career record of 11-4-4 from 32 starts. He likes to be involved early and he used his good speed to win three races in 2011, all in $17,500 claiming sprints.