10/31/2007 11:00PM

O'Neill has key pair going in Juvenile

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - Three races before trainer Doug O'Neill runs the aging veteran Lava Man in the California Cup Classic, a pair of young upstart O'Neill trainees will offer a preview of the future in the $125,000 Cal Cup Juvenile.

Fourteen 2-year-olds entered the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile (race 7), and O'Neill holds the aces. My Redeemer scored a 16-length win in the Gateway to Glory Stakes at Fairplex but drew post 14. Harlene is a lightly raced maiden making his third career start.

"They're both nice 2-year-olds," O'Neill stated. "My Redeemer has a lot more racing under his belt and is proven against winners, so he's absolutely the horse to beat from our barn."

O'Neill, however, cautions bettors not to sell Harlene short.

"He didn't have the luckiest trip last time. We might be jumping into the deep end a little quick with him, but we think he's ready."

My Redeemer was making his sixth career start Sept. 20 at Fairplex, when he destroyed a sorry field of 2-year-olds (none has won since) in the Gateway to Glory. Owned and bred by Tommy Town, My Redeemer has won 2 races from 6 starts, and will be ridden again by Isaias Enriquez. If he overcomes the outside draw, while facing better, he can win.

Harlene, however, may have more upside in his third career start. A son of first-crop sire Decarchy, he finished a closing third in his sprint debut for trainer Jack Carava on Aug. 26 at Del Mar. He subsequently was sold and transferred to O'Neill.

A two-turn maiden race Oct. 4 did not set up well for Harlene, who was hard-held and rank behind the slow pace. It was the gelding's first start around two turns, and despite expending much energy early he finished a respectable third by 2 1/4 lengths. Michael Baze will ride Harlene on Saturday. If they settle early, they can win.

The remaining starters in the Cal Cup Juvenile are difficult to separate. Nevada Worrier won the seven-furlong Cavonnier Stakes on Oct. 8 at Del Mar, but the gelding, 2 for 8, is bred to go short (by Lord Carson). If It Stays Fair won the maiden race in which Harlene finished second, and was sold thereafter.

Flight Leader improved a ton in his second start, winning a six-furlong maiden race going wire to wire. The leggy gelding by Bertrando should love two turns.

The knock on Flight Leader is the same as others in the field - inexperience. The Juvenile is just his third start.

"We wish we had more seasoning," trainer Bill Spawr said.

California Blaze wired open maidens (not restricted to statebreds) in a turf sprint first out, and probably is the one to catch from the inside post. Sierra Sunset won a sprint stakes by eight lengths last out at Bay Meadows. Wide Mandate won a sprint stakes at Santa Anita.