07/04/2007 11:00PM

Silent Name seeks to prove himself

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Were it not for a dreadful start that led to an eighth-place finish in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park in May, Silent Name might be favored in Saturday's $300,000 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Instead, his last start makes him just one of several contenders in a remarkably strong Grade 1 race over seven furlongs.

The list of leading hopefuls includes defending champion Siren Lure; El Roblar, winner of the Ack Ack Handicap here June 9; Surf Cat, a three-time stakes winner in 2006 who is returning from layoff of nearly 14 months; and the speedy Sailors Sunset, who won the Los Angeles Handicap here in May.

Silent Name must prove he belongs among that group. A sharp four-length winner of the Grade 2 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Stakes over seven furlongs at Keeneland in April, Silent Name must run the best race of his career to win the Triple Bend, which has drawn a field of nine.

"This is probably one of the toughest Triple Bends I've seen in a long time," said Mike Mitchell, who starts Battle Won, the runner-up in the 2006 Triple Bend.

Silent Name emerged from his rough trip in the Metropolitan Handicap with only a few cuts, trainer Gary Mandella said. He stumbled at the start and never reached contention.

"I've never seen a horse fall so hard and not do anything to his feet," Mandella said of the start. "He was stiff for awhile. It took a couple of weeks to get the kinks out."

Silent Name breaks from post 8 in a field of nine and should get an ideal trip stalking Sailors Sunset and Bilo, the easy winner of an optional claimer on June 10. Mandella is fully convinced that Silent Name belongs.

"If he handles the track, he's definitely good enough," Mandella said. "We'll find out the old-fashioned way."

Battle Won will be near the front. He has made one start this year, finishing second by a nose in the Gradeo3 San Simeon Handicap on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita in April.

Mitchell said he races Battle Won sparingly for health reasons.

"His blood gets too out of whack, so I don't run him too much," he said.

Surf Cat starts as the 123-pound topweight and may go favored. He won the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap in May 2006 in his last start before being sidelined by injury. Jockey Alex Solis, who has ridden Surf Cat to all seven of his victory in 11 starts, watched Surf Cat work a half-mile in 45.60 seconds at Santa Anita on Monday. Solis is confident that trainer Bruce Headley has Surf Cat ready.

Bruce "asked me to watch him work and he looked incredible," Solis said. "He's such a gorgeous horse, well-balanced. He knows he's good. You'll see it in the paddock. He's a warrior."

El Roblar, trained by Gary Mandella's father, Richard, will be well backed. He won the Ack Ack Handicap over 7 1/2 furlongs in a lesser field on June 9, the first graded stakes win of his 12-race career.