01/16/2008 1:00AM

Questions surround Delia colt

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ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Bill Delia has as many questions about the comebacking Running Rich as handicappers will in assessing his chances against seven rivals in a $32,000 claimer on the Tapeta main track at Golden Gate Fields on Friday.

Running Rich faded badly in his last start, the $107,000 Real Good Deal on the Del Mar Polytrack last Aug. 10, and has been sidelined in the five months since by what Delia called "issues."

Running Rich was beaten more than 20 lengths in the Real Good Deal, finishing last of six, but the competition was very strong, and Running Rich, usually a closer, found himself on the lead in that seven-furlong race. Ridden by Corey Nakatani, Running Rich dueled with Idiot Proof through fractions of 22.79 seconds and 45.90, and both of them ended up fading. Idiot Proof - who later in the year ran second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint - finished third behind Bad Bad Leroybrown and Zoning In.

"He was on the lead, and that was ridiculous," Delia said. "He'd never been on the lead in his life. It was a nightmare trip. Nothing went right. I don't know how the jockey got him to the lead."

Though he won his debut sprinting five furlongs at Santa Rosa as a 2-year-old, the 4-year-old Running Rich is 0 for 3, with a second and a third, at Friday's six-furlong distance.

Running Rich won his debut for a $32,000 maiden-claiming tag. He has also won a $40,000 starter allowance and a $25,000 optional claimer. Delia entered the colt in a $25,000 claimer that didn't fill, so he entered him back for Friday's higher tag.

Running Rich has been working steadily and has handled the Tapeta surface well. His final drill was a strong 59.80 five-furlong work last Friday. But Delia isn't sure what to expect.

"It's been awhile," he said. "We'll see if he can get back into racing. He looked like he'd be a solid horse last year, but who knows, he may not run at all. This is really a steppingstone to see where he belongs."

The stakes-placed Swen will make his first start in 13 months. He has been working strongly. Brave Sun, probably better routing but second in his comeback sprint earlier this meet, makes his third start since a brief layoff and should be a factor in the lane.