05/13/2002 11:00PM

Sky's the limit for Geo Quercus


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Geo Quercus is eligible for an easier race than the classified allowance that will bring his U.S. debut Thursday at Hollywood Park. In fact, conventional class handicapping says Geo Quercus would be all-out to win a three-other-than, much less the high-level turf mile he tries Thursday.

There is a hitch to old-school class analysis however - it does not accurately account for current condition. Geo Quercus may not win the Thursday feature in which five others are perfectly qualified, but there is a reason trainer Marty Jones chose to run him in such an apparently tough spot. It's the right thing to do.

"Everything he's been working with, he's been going better than," Jones said. "I've had him about two months, and he's been working really good. He ought to run well. He looks like he could be a nice horse."

Geo Quercus, a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Super Quercus, faces several with fitting credentials. They include the Ron McAnally-trained Nicobar, a European Group 2 winner making his third U.S. start; McAnally's graded stakes-placed National Anthem; Riviera, winner of the Grade 1 Atto Mile in 2000, but below form in two comeback races for Bobby Frankel; sprinter Stratton; and $80,000 claimer Little Ghazi.

All five have accomplished more than Geo Quercus, who won 3 of 6 in France and scored only one notable victory. That was in a restricted stakes with just five starters. Still, Geo Quercus has been training like a potential stakes horse since arriving in California, and having started just six times, he has plenty of upside potential. Purchased in Europe by respected bloodstock agent Hubert Guy, Geo Quercus runs well fresh.

The 4-year-old Geo Quercus won his debut by four lengths and an allowance-race comeback last year that followed an eight-month layoff. Thursday, he makes his first U.S. start for a partnership headed by George Hicker. Jones and Hicker previously teamed with Sharakan, a European import who arrived with similar credentials. In the U.S. Sharakan won 6 of 21, including two stakes.

Beyond his brilliant workouts, Geo Quercus faces a field that is possibly past its prime. The most lightly raced in the field is 8-year-old Riviera, who is making his third start following a tendon injury. He continues to train well, but two comeback races resulted in sixth-place finishes. Nicobar, a 22-start veteran, fought his rider much of the trip last time. He may be better relaxed in his second start over a route of ground.

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