08/17/2007 11:00PM

Old Man River iffy coming off injury


DEL MAR, Calif. - Old Man River has earned $152,835 and placed in three stakes in his career. He makes his 2007 debut in an optional claimer over a mile at Del Mar on Monday against five opponents, none of whom have earned more than $99,000.

Although he is the most accomplished member of the field, there are uncertainties about Old Man River's chances. The race is his first start since November, a layoff caused by the recurrence of a tendon injury, according to trainer Terry Knight.

"I don't know what to expect," Knight said.

The race is the first time that Old Man River has been offered for a claiming price. He is entered for $62,500.

"I don't think anyone would be upset" if he was claimed, Knight said.

Old Man River, who has won 3 of 10 starts, is owned by the Mabee family's Golden Eagle Farm Investments. Earlier this month, Larry Mabee, the son of farm founders John and Betty Mabee, said his family was downsizing its racing and breeding operation over the next year.

For his comeback, Old Man River has had three quick workouts over six and seven furlongs, the best of the morning at those distances.

"He's always been a fairly good morning horse," Knight said.

Old Man River has made one start on a synthetic track, finishing third in the On Trust Handicap for California-breds at Hollywood Park last November. Knight is concerned that the tiring nature of Del Mar's synthetic Polytrack surface could be a burden for Old Man River.

"It's a little bit of a doubled-edged sword trying to get a horse like him fit and at the same time being concerned with his problem," Knight said. "I don't know if he's dead fit enough to win on this racetrack off a layoff."

"He's kind of a plodder, really. He doesn't have a lot of style. Going short, he was helped when the pace was so hot. He just had his same gear. It made him looking like he was making a move but they were coming back to him."

Bernasconi, Midwesterner, and Victory Design can win if Old Man River comes up short.

Bernasconi was third in a division of the Oceanside Stakes here last month. Midwesterner won a stakes for statebreds at Emerald Downs last year. Victory Design comes in off a troubled seventh in an allowance race at Churchill Downs in July and is making his first start for trainer Peter Miller.