04/25/2008 12:00AM

Notional needs old winning ways


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Although he is a two-time stakes winner and former Triple Crown hopeful, Notional will need to be at his best to win Sunday's $150,000 Tiznow Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Aside from facing a full field of statebreds in the Tiznow, Notional has had a grueling travel schedule this spring.

So far this year he has started twice on opposite sides of the world, finishing third in the Daytona Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb. 17 and last of 16 in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free Stakes at Nad Al Sheba on March 29. Just four weeks later, he's back in action at Hollywood Park.

"We couldn't find a prep," trainer Doug O'Neill wisecracked.

A winner of 3 of 8 starts and $515,740, Notional has had two workouts since his return to California, a half-mile breeze on April 12 and a five-furlong work on April 19.

"He's full of energy," O'Neill said. "His breeze looked pretty good."

In the Tiznow Stakes, which is run over 7 1/2 furlongs, Notional will make his eighth consecutive start in a stakes, a span that includes wins in the Grade 2 San Rafael Stakes and Grade 3 Risen Star Stakes and a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, all in 2007. He missed the 2007 Triple Crown because of injury, returning earlier this year in the Daytona Handicap.

Notional raced on the rail in the Dubai Duty Free and was in traffic with a little more than two furlongs remaining. He was not aggressively ridden by jockey Garrett Gomez when beaten in early stretch.

Gomez is aboard Notional for the Tiznow, which has drawn a field of 12 but may not have that many starters. Trainer Carla Gaines said that Lucky J.H., the winner of the Sensational Star Handicap at Santa Anita earlier this month, would be withdrawn because of a quarter crack.

The field includes Medzendeekron, who finished third in the Grade 2 Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland on April 12; Johnny Eves, the winner of the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita in December; Bilo, the winner of the California Cup Sprint last November; and Leesider, the winner of the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes here last April.

Stella Mark, the winner of an allowance race against open company on April 12, will be making his stakes debut for trainer Ted H. West after wining 4 of his first 13 starts.

Johnny Eves has been keeping the best company of late, running in four graded stakes at Santa Anita. He was fifth in the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Handicap over 6 1/2 furlongs on April 5, a race that has trainer Jay Robbins concerned about the 4-year-old gelding's form.

"He might be getting a little bit sour," he said. "We'll see how he runs this time. We can't find anything physically. We might kick him out after this race."

Johnny Eves has ample speed, but Robbins expects jockey David Flores to have Johnny Eves stalking Bilo, who will be making his first start since finishing sixth in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park in January.