06/07/2006 12:00AM

Possible pace fight suits Bushwacker fine

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - A battle for the lead may doom some horses, but it's an ideal scenario for Bushwacker, who starts in Friday's seventh race at Hollywood Park.

starts in an optional claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf, trying to win for the second time in three starts. He will be near the front early, which trainer Bill Currin said is a strategy that works for the 4-year-old colt.

"He's got to have horses to run with," Currin said. "He loses interest if he's alone. When you pull him up, you discourage him."

A winner of 2 of 13 starts, Bushwacker won a six-furlong allowance race here on May 7. He returned to finish third in an allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs on May 26, after fighting for the lead in the first half-mile.

"The horse is perfect," Currin said. "The race is a little sooner than I'd like. I can't resist running 5 1/2 furlongs on turf with this horse."

Bushwacker has run on turf once, finishing ninth in the Harry Henson Stakes here in April 2005.

Tyler Baze rides Bushwacker on Friday. Baze is the fifth different jockey for Bushwacker in as many starts.

In Friday's race, which has drawn seven entrants, Bushwacker will have company on the front from , who is trained by Jack Carava. Ocean Grand is winless in five starts and has been close to the front in recent starts. He was beaten a nose in a $50,000 claimer on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita on April 9.

Another horse capable of showing speed is , an 8-year-old gelding. Trained by Summer Mayberry, Billy's Echo is winless in four starts this year, including a third here on May 12. Billy's Echo won the restricted Flame Thrower Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf here last June, his most recent victory.

A fast pace will help Head of the House, who breaks from the rail. Trained by Paco Gonzalez, Head of the House was second in two starts at Santa Anita earlier this year, losing by three-quarters of a length and a neck. In his only start at this meeting, Head of the House finished fourth after encountering trouble in early stretch.

The race marks the U.S. debut of Rydal, a winner of 2 of 31 starts in England. Rydal, 5, has been racing in dirt and turf sprints in the last year.