10/29/2008 12:00AM

South Coast needs lead

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Having the lead is vital for South Coast.

When he battled for the lead in an allowance race at Fairplex Park last month, he drew off to win by 3 3/4 lengths. When South Coast failed to make the lead in the $250,000 California Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Oct. 5, he could only finish sixth.

South Coast will be in front in a first-level optional $40,000 claimer over 1 1/4 miles on turf at Hollywood Park on Friday, and trainer Marty Jones hopes the 5-year-old gelding can use that tactic to his advantage.

"I'd like to see him on the lead," Jones said. "If things go his way, he'll be real tough."

In the California Cup Classic, South Coast's only career stakes appearance, the gelding was third and then fourth in the early stages under jockey Joe Talamo and finished 4 1/4 lengths behind race winner Mr. Chairman.

"It didn't set up very well for him," Jones said. "He's better on the lead. Joe tried to take him back and didn't get the trip he needed to run his best race."

Owned by a partnership, South Coast has won 3 of 12 starts. He has drawn the outside post in a field of six for Friday's race. It will be the longest race in South Coast's career.

Four entrants ran in claiming races in recent starts. Dadsalittleunusual was sixth in a $40,000 claimer at Santa Anita on Oct. 12. Bright Prediction won a $35,000 claimer at Hollywood Park in July 2007. He returned from a 14-month layoff to finish eighth in an optional claimer at Santa Anita on Oct. 1.

Westerly Magic and Romp were first and second in a $40,000 claimer at Santa Anita on Oct. 12. Mississippian will be a longshot. He is winless in six starts since arriving from Ireland last winter.

Dadsalittleunusual, who drew the rail, may go favored. A 5-year-old gelding trained by Barry Abrams, Dadsalittleunusual was beaten a nose in an optional claimer for statebreds over a mile on turf at Santa Anita on Oct. 17. Dadsalittleunusual is winless in his last 10 starts, but Abrams was encouraged by the recent race. He thinks Dadsalittleunusual can win by stalking the pace.

"The way it looks, he'll be second or third," Abrams said. "I think he's in a really good spot."