07/07/2006 12:00AM

Slew's Prince poses threat to Taikun

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Taikun would have won the Flame Thrower Stakes last month at Hollywood Park regardless, but a nasty spill in the stretch cast a pall over an otherwise impressive victory by Taikun in the 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint.

Bear in the Woods broke down and was euthanized, Moth Ball fell, and only five finished the race. Taikun won by 2 1/2 lengths in a quick 1:00.70 as the odds-on favorite. His odds will be short again Sunday in the $65,000 Robert K. Kerlan Memorial Handicap.

Five entered the Kerlan, a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint that includes front-runner is so dominant that the Kerlan was carded as race 3, outside the pick six.

Barring the unforeseen, Taikun should win again for trainer Ron McAnally and jockey Alex Solis. A 6-year-old gelding, Taikun won 7 of 9 in Australia for trainer Bart Cummings, who previously sent McAnally the honest turf sprinter Sex Machine.

Cummings, said McAnally, "called after that horse won four in a row here and said we've got another one that's better."

Taikun bled twice in Australia, tailed off, and was barred from racing there. But McAnally believed the addition of Lasix in North America would alleviate the problem and allow Taikun to return to form.

Taikun made his U.S. debut in a turf sprint April 9 at Santa Anita, finishing second by a nose. He improved May 15 and finished second in a turf stakes at Hollywood, and put it all together June 16 in the Flame Thrower. Taikun settled seven lengths behind the leader, stormed home, and won going away. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 105, 2 points above the 103 par for the Kerlan.

With front-runner Slew's Prince to ensure pace, and based on Taikun's durable Australian form and sharp recent races, there is every reason to believe Taikun will fire Sunday as the 122-pound highweight.

Slew's Prince is a front-running upset threat. A speedster trained by Cliff Sise, Slew's Prince led to deep stretch last out in the race won by Taikun. Slew's Prince has won 5 races and $265,714 from 28 starts, and is making the third start of his form cycle. The only pure front-runner in the field, Slew's Prince will lead as far as he can under Pat Valenzuela.

Golden Arrow has won five races and $406,339 from 35 starts; he finished fifth last out in a $80,000 claimer. Railroad has not raced since February, and Tomcolee is an overmatched claiming horse.