06/20/2002 11:00PM

Our Main Man worth the trouble

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Know this about Our Main Man, the California-bred gelding who finished second in the $250,000 Dallas Turf Cup at Lone Star Park on June 15: He is his own boss.

Our Main Man was claimed for $32,000 as a 2-year-old in the fall of 2000. Since then, he has been successful for the partnership that owns him and trainer Grant Hofmans.

But at times, he has been a puzzle in the mornings and a frustration in the afternoons.

Sometimes Our Main Man cooperates during morning training, sometimes he spends the session playing. The same applies to his races. More than once, he has led in midstretch only to become distracted and lose.

None of that is a surprise anymore to Hofmans, who through the disappointments has watched Our Main Man win 4 of 20 starts and $236,206.

"He just does his thing," Hofmans said. "He can still be very ornery."

Lately, though, Our Main Man has turned in a series of strong performances for the ownership team of Jeff and Sue Moualim, Ben Branson, Tom Jebb, and Class Racing Stable, a syndicate.

In the Dallas Turf Cup, over 1 1/8 miles on turf, Our Main Man closed from sixth to finish second to the heavily favored Suances, another California shipper. Earlier, at the Hollywood Park meeting, Our Main Man was third in the Quicken Tree Stakes and third in the Jim Murray Memorial Handicap.

The last three races have given Hofmans the hope that Our Main Man can win a stakes.

By Maria's Mon, the 1995 champion 2-year-old male, Our Main Man is out of Affirming, an Affirmed mare. Affirming was a winner on the racetrack and produced the stakes-placed Resiliency.

"When I saw his breeding, I saw tremendous potential," Jeff Moualim said of Our Main Man.

In the fall of 1997, John Harris paid $35,000 for Affirming at the Keeneland November sale, while she was carrying Our Main Man. After foaling Our Main Man, Affirming was bred back to High Brite and produced the winner Highly Affirmed. She also produced Excess Yes, an unraced 2-year-old colt by In Excess.

Hofmans had his eye on Our Main Man before he was available to claim.

Hofmans said he liked the way Our Main Man had been managed by owner-breeder Harris Farms and trainer Carla Gaines, from whom the gelding was claimed.

"Carla protected him at first, running him in straight maidens," he said.

Shortly after claiming Our Main Man, Hofmans wondered what he had gotten himself into. Our Main Man was an equine pill of sorts. And, he had already been gelded.

"He was really a challenge," Hofmans said. "You could barely get him to the track."

In his first start for the partnership, Our Main Man finished a well-beaten fourth in the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile at Oak Tree. He emerged with knee problems that prompted a six-month break.

Our Main Man returned last April, and after running third in a starter allowance he quickly recouped the partnership's investment, winning two races at Hollywood Park, including an allowance race for California-breds. At Del Mar, he finished third in a division of the Oceanside Stakes, proving that grass was his preferred surface. Later in the year, he finished a close fourth in the Half Moon Bay Stakes at Bay Meadows after leading in midstretch.

After losing four more starts, Our Main Man won an optional claimer at Santa Anita over 1 1/4 miles on turf in January.

"He's much better than the way he acted as a 2-year-old," Hofmans said.

"I'll take the credit for making the claim," said Jeff Moualim. "After that, it's been 100 percent Grant. He's done a wonderful job with him. Grant had his hands full with him. Even still, riders have trouble with him."

Slowly, it seems that Our Main Man's behavior is improving.

Hofmans cites his soundness as an asset, and thinks the best is yet to come.

"I knew he has ability, but he's still very immature," Hofmans said. "I think his 5- and 6-year-old years will be his best."