01/27/2005 12:00AM

Prankster CF at perfect distance

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Prankster CF, runner-up in the vote for 2004 champion distance horse, carries high weight of 125 pounds as he goes for his third win in three starts at 870 yards in the Grade 3, $27,000 The Moonshiner Handicap on Saturday night at Los Alamitos.

A 4-year-old son of the Thoroughbred Favorite Trick, Prankster CF nearly won the distance championship as a 3-year-old in 2004, winning his final two starts, which were his only career starts at 870 yards. Those two strong races at 870 yards caught the attention of the voters. In the distance championship voting, there was a runoff between Grade 1 Challenge Distance Championship winner Run and Pray and Prankster CF, and Run and Pray won it by a 17-8 vote. Still, Prankster CF was named the distance horse of the meet at Los Alamitos for 2004.

A homebred gelding, he made his 870-yard debut in the trials to the Grade 1, $164,000 Marathon National on Nov. 20 and won in gate-to-wire fashion by 2 1/4 lengths. His 44.72-second time was the fastest qualifying time from two trials.

That impressive distance debut made him the stronger half of the 4-5 entry in the Marathon National, and he rewarded his supporters by holding off the Thoroughbred Bang to win by a nose and become a prime championship contender. Bang is entered to return in the Padua Stables Sprint Stakes. on the Sunshine Millions program on Saturday at Santa Anita.

Prankster CF faces a softer group Saturday than he did in the Marathon National. If Prankster CF, who has shown early speed in each of his two 870-yard starts, can be well-positioned on the turn in The Moonshiner from post 5, he could be difficult to catch.

Three-time champion trainer Paul Jones, who trains Prankster CF, will also send out Hi Patriot, who comes off two allowance victories. She won at 550 yards and then won an 870-yard race on Dec. 17 as the 4-5 favorite. She starts from the post 6 in the eight-horse field.

Royal N Rowdy and Bac in the Saddle will each carry 124 pounds in The Moonshiner.

Royal N Rowdy finished second behind Hi Patriot on Dec. 17 and was a troubled third in an 870-yard allowance race in his previous start. He will have the opportunity to get a rail trip in The Moonshiner, breaking from the the inside post.

Bac in the Saddle, winner of the California Challenge Distance Champion-ship, is making his first appearance in over two months. Last year he finished on the board in 8 of 10 starts, counting 4 wins.

He came from off the pace in the California Challenge and could benefit from a speed duel in The Moonshiner.