09/07/2010 3:03PM

Pedroza, Flores face off for 'King of the Ring' title

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POMONA, Calif. – Jockey Martin Pedroza has won a record 606 races at Fairplex Park, but he has never ridden in a match race.

That changes Thursday when the Los Angeles County Fair race meet begins and Pedroza meets former Fairplex kingpin David Flores in match race billed “King of the Ring.”

“It’s just another race,” Pedroza said. He was hiding a grin.

Pedroza, undisputed king of Fairplex with 11 consecutive titles and 12 overall, knows his way around the tight turns of the five-eighth-mile dirt track. What is his secret?

“I ride better horses, and the turns,” Pedroza said. “I won a lot of races on those turns.”

So has Flores, whose 338 Fairplex victories rank second all time. Flores led the standings six straight years, from 1989 through 1994.

So who wins the King of the Ring on Thursday? Chances are it will be Flores.

In a random draw on two closely matched $40,000 maiden-claimers, Flores picked up Cat Brando, the 3-5 program favorite. Pedroza drew Dave’s Ruler, listed as the 4-5 second choice. If either scratches, sprinter Derrick Do will substitute.

The 1 1/16-mile showdown is race 6 on a 12-race card. Trainer Bob Hess Jr. trains five-start maiden Dave’s Ruler; trainer Doug O’Neill will give Flores a leg up on Cat Brando. O’Neill claimed Cat Brando for $25,000 from Richard Mandella on Aug. 13.

“He’s a consistent horse, he was running well for his previous connections, he’s a 3-year-old, he’s a Cal-bred, and he can route,” O’Neill explained. “And he looked great in the paddock. It looked like a safe claim.”

Cat Brando has raced five times and will make his first start for O’Neill in the match race. It was luck of the draw that Flores rides, and fine with O’Neill.

“Flores is riding like he’s 25 again,” O’Neill. “And it’s a credit to Fairplex to showcase two guys that have done so much for Fairplex.”

Flores is 42, Pedroza is 45, and regardless of the King of the Ring outcome, Pedroza enters the 2010 meet favored to lead the standings for a 12th straight year. After a long summer at Del Mar, Pedroza always looks forward to the Fair.

“It is home, it is right in your backyard,” said Pedroza, who lives less than 15 minutes from the festive carnival atmosphere of the Fair. “It is fun, and you can go with your family.”