12/07/2007 12:00AM

Real Dandy fond of course and distance

EmailReal Dandy will get the chance to return to the distance of his biggest career win Sunday when he starts in the $175,000 Zia Park Distance Championship. The 1 1/8-mile race drew a competitive field of 11 older horses who together have earned more than $3.6 million.

Real Dandy is the field's richest starter, with a bankroll of $1,024,754. He earned a good chunk of that amount going nine furlongs when he captured the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Racetrack in 2005.

Later the same year, he won the Zia Park Derby, and the combination of a win over the Hobbs, N.M. oval and a proven record at 1 1/8 miles has brought him to town for the Distance Championship, said his trainer, Steve Asmussen.

"We know he likes the course," he said.

Real Dandy returned from a two-month freshening for the $125,000 Mountaineer Mile on Nov. 10 and closed for third. Luis Quinonez has the mount Sunday.

"He ran a decent third at Mountaineer last time," Asmussen said of Real Dandy. "The mile was a bit short for him, but he ran a pretty good race."

Real Dandy should get an acceptable pace setup Sunday. War Bridle, a stakes-winning sprinter, is stretching out from six furlongs for the race, while Mr. Pursuit, the winner of the Oklahoma Derby in 2006, was a wire-to-wire allowance winner at Zia on Nov. 20.

Tap Dancing Mauk should also be prominent. He exits a one-turn mile at Churchill Downs in which he stalked the pace and finished second in an $80,000 optional claimer. Casey Lambert has the mount for trainer Dale Romans.

Others adding depth to the Distance Championship include A Gallant Discover, who was fourth by a length last out in the $250,000 California Cup Classic at Santa Anita, and Plug Me In, a stakes winner at Fairplex in September who was ninth last out in the Grade 2 Clark Handicap at Churchill.

Rollicking Caller, a winner of four of his last five starts, drew the rail and gets the services of jockey Patrick Valenzuela. A stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles in September, the horse is trained by Ramon Gonzalez.

* Gonzalez also has a leading contender in the card's other stakes, the Grade 1, $175,000 Zia Park Quarter Horse Championship. He will send out Let It Snowman, who won the Grade 1 New Mexico Challenge Championship in April. Zia closes its meet Tuesday.