12/06/2007 12:00AM

'Running Bear' gets class test

EmailINGLEWOOD, Calif. - The $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup at Hollywood Park on Saturday is the ideal race for Chief Running Bear's stakes debut.

The 4-year-old colt is on a two-race winning streak, both of which were long races on turf, and is well suited to the Turf Cup distance of 1 1/2 miles. What is unclear to trainer Graham Motion and owner Earle Mack is whether Chief Running Bear is good enough to compete with the American graded stakes winners Sunriver and Spring House and the European stakes winner Champs Elysees and Sudan in the Grade 1 Turf Cup.

Chief Running Bear showed his determination to win an allowance race at Keeneland on Oct. 26, his most recent start. Rallying 10-wide - yes, 10-wide - Chief Running Bear made up 1 1/4 lengths in the final quarter-mile to beat 10 rivals by 1 3/4 lengths under now-retired jockey Mark Guidry.

"He was a pretty comfortable winner and didn't have the best trip," Motion said Thursday. "I know Mark was quite impressed, but I know this is a huge step."

A winner of 3 of 5 starts, Chief Running Bear began his career in Ireland, where he beat maidens in August 2006 in his second start and final start in that country. Chief Running Bear was acquired by Mack in late 2006 and spent the winter of 2006-07 in Florida, Motion said.

Chief Running Bear was gelded during his time in Florida.

"He was pretty difficult, to be honest," Motion said.

Chief Running Bear was eighth in his U.S. debut at Saratoga on July 28, but rebounded to win an allowance race on Aug. 27. The win at Keeneland came in his third start in this country.

"He was very well thought of in Ireland early on," Motion said. "I was surprised that he didn't run better in his first race. I can only think he needed the added distance."

The Turf Cup may be run on a wet turf course, which could help Chief Running Bear. He won over a yielding turf course in Ireland and on a similar surface at Keeneland.

"Where it might help him, it could hurt a few of the others," Motion said of softer ground. "I don't mind it."

Sohgol leads gate to wire

Sohgol won the first stakes of her career in Wednesday's $69,250 Hermosa Beach Handicap, even though her front-running style caught jockey Joe Talamo by surprise.

Talamo said Sohgol was aggressive in the opening furlong of the race at 1 1/2 miles on turf and is not the sort of mare that can be coaxed into changing styles once a race is under way.

"I was glad she went to the lead," Talamo said. "You can't grab her or she'll stop. She broke really sharp and I stayed wide. She was doing it all so easily. I didn't want to grab her and take her back."

Unchallenged early, Sohgol set a moderate pace, led by as many as three lengths, and had plenty of energy in the stretch to hold off Forest Melody and win by 1 1/2 lengths.

Owned by George Strawbridge's Augustin Stable and trained by Neil Drysdale, Sohgol ($9.40) was timed in 2:26.52. Wingspan, the even-money favorite, was third in the field of six.

Sohgol has won 4 of 22 starts and $221,492. Before the Hermosa Beach, her best result in a stakes was a second in the Grade 3 Wilshire Handicap here last April.

Alcala fined for two positives

Trainer Jorge Alcala has been fined $2,000 after two of his starters at the Los Angeles County Fair and the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meetings earlier this year tested in excess of the permitted levels of Ketoprofen, an anti-inflammatory.

The excessive levels were found in postrace tests taken from Silver Surprise, the runner-up in the sixth race at Fairplex Park on Sept. 12, and This Topper, the fourth-place finisher at Santa Anita on Oct. 19.

Migliore, Nakatani lose ban appeals

Jockeys Richard Migliore and Corey Nakatani have lost appeals of three-day suspensions issued at Del Mar during the summer.

The appeals were heard by a hearing officer at Del Mar, who affirmed the decision of the stewards. The hearing officer's opinion was adopted by the California Horse Racing Board earlier this month.

Nakatani begins his suspension Saturday, but will be able to ride Chief Running Bear in the Turf Cup since it is a graded stakes exempt from routine suspensions. Nakatani's suspension continues Sunday and Wednesday. Migliore's suspension runs from Wednesday through Friday.

Gray Black N White sets record

Gray Black N White set a track record of 1:02.09 for 5 1/2 furlongs by winning a $25,000 claimer in Wednesday's sixth race.

It is the third track record established at this meeting. On Nov. 25, Johnny Eves ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.03. Last Sunday, Romance Is Diane finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.90 in the Bayakoa Handicap, a mark that has been lowered regularly at this meeting.

The synthetic main track was first used for racing in November 2006.