12/04/2009 12:00AM

Orientate Express on roll

Dustin Orona Photography
Orientate Express edges Steve's Double by a neck to win the Remington Green on Oct. 11.

Orientate Express has upset odds-on favorites in back-to-back stakes in the last two months to establish himself as one of the better older horses in the Southwest. On Sunday, he will attempt to take down one of the region's richest races for his division, the $200,000 Zia Park Distance Championship, against a field that includes millionaire Going Ballistic, multiple stakes winner Song of Navarone, and Chicago invader Shadowbdancing.

"It's a tough race, but I think he'll run good," said Kelly Von Hemel, who trains Orientate Express for Prairie Lane Farms.

The Distance Championship, at 1 1/8 miles, will share a card with the $120,000 Eddy County for 2-year-olds bred in New Mexico and the $175,000 Distance Championship for Quarter Horses. The rich stakes are part of the final week of racing at Zia, which will close its meet Tuesday.

Orientate Express shipped to Zia last month from his Remington Park base and won the $60,000 Veteran over Song of Navarone. One start prior, he was up for a neck win over Steve's Double in the $150,000 Remington Green at Remington on Oct. 11. Both races came at 1 1/16 miles, so he will be picking up a bit of added ground Sunday.

"He won going a mile and an eighth at Hawthorne on the grass," Von Hemel noted. "I don't know if it's his best distance, but distance is not a big concern."

Glen Murphy has the mount on Orientate Express, who will break from post 3 in the field of 6.

"Shadowbdancing looks like the pace to me," Von Hemel said. "We could be laying second, right off of him."

Shadowbdancing and Going Ballistic both come out of the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup on Oct. 3, with Shadowbdancing having finished sixth after setting the pace and Going Ballistic closing from 15 lengths back for third. Going Ballistic is turning back from 1 1/4 miles on Sunday to the distance of his two biggest wins, the Grade 2 Super Derby and the Oklahoma Derby.

Luis Quinonez has the mount for Kindred Thoroughbreds and trainer Donnie Von Hemel, who is the older brother of Kelly Von Hemel.

Song of Navarone will remove blinkers, the same equipment change he made last year when he won the Distance Championship. Antonio Castanon has the mount for trainer Henry Dominguez.

* Chuchuluco, who was one of the most impressive winners on the New Mexico Cup card last month at Zia, will make his two-turn debut in the one-mile Eddy County.