09/21/2004 12:00AM

Ontheroadagain worth a stab

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POMONA, Calif. - A motley cast of 2-year-olds entered the $60,000 Gateway to Glory Stakes on Thursday at Fairplex Park. Bettors able to find the winner of the 1 1/16-mile race will be suitably rewarded, because the race lacks a legitimate favorite.

Arch Stanton and Total Wager will start at relatively low odds, particularly since improving front-runner Barry the Law is likely to scratch. A field of eight entered the race, which often produces starters for the California Cup Juvenile. Barring improvement, this year's field is more likely to produce starters for upcoming claiming races.

is the only entrant who has not raced for a claiming price, and though well-beaten in both of his starts, the fact he is trained by meet leader Doug O'Neill is reason to consider him a contender in a weak race. Compromised by a slow break in both starts, Ontheroadagain switches from turf to the main track. He showed enough late run in his sprint debut July 10 to suggest his ninth-place finish in his comeback was not a true measure of his ability.

Total Wager won his second start on July 22 with a 69 Beyer Figure, which is the highest in the field. Trained by Jeff Mullins, Total Wager subsequently finished a dull fourth in a Cal-bred allowance, and as a son of Valid Wager, there is question regarding his ability to stay a distance of ground. However, in a 2-year-old route on the five-eighth-mile bullring, raw ability supersedes pedigree as a handicapping factor. Notwithstanding his passive showing last out, Total Wager enters as the most likely winner.

Arch Stanton finished 1 1/2 lengths behind Total Wager in his last start, but he ran just as well, if not better. Arch Stanton was positioned in front of Total Wager until the final furlong, when he tired from the chase and finished last of five. Jeff Bonde trains Arch Stanton, who adds blinkers for his first try over a distance of ground. Arch Stanton has worked fast since he last raced, but Bonde tends to work his horses fast anyway and it would be a mistake to overemphasize the speed of his workouts.

Other starters include the maiden This Wizard Rocks, whose runner-up finish in a turf route last time could give him a fitness edge. He adds blinkers and picks up Martin Pedroza.

The trainer of Barry the Law, Paul Aguirre, said he planned to scratch his horse to find an easier spot.

Other entrants are Great Power, Lite Man, and Cowboy Badgett.