01/16/2003 1:00AM

Sunland: Tornados Jack tops Pepsi


SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - Saturday's $125,000-added Pepsi Cola Handicap at six furlongs has attracted 12 New Mexico-bred 3-year-olds. This division was last assembled in the Red Hedeman Mile on Nov. 30, a race in which several key contenders had bad racing luck.

Tornados Jack won the Hedeman. He settled far back early and was the only horse still running hard at the end, with most of his rivals finishing tired. Tornados Jack is versatile, with some solid sprint credentials, and will likely attract much of the betting action.

Fred Danley trains Tornados Jack for W. T. Stradley and Tom Williams. Jorge Bourdieu will ride.

Bubba Hyde was favored in the Hedeman but stumbled at the start, was rushed up to press the pace into the far turn, and tired badly in the stretch. Before that, Bubba Hyde had turned in three fine sprint efforts. The Todd Fincher trainee can be expected to be a force in this race under jockey Carlos Madeira.

Hasty Gus, owned by Marvin Perea and Dennis Garcia, was also well bet in the Hedeman but drew post 10 and was hung wide around the first turn. He contested the pace for a half-mile and tired. Trainer Joe Cordova has every right to believe his horse will rebound off that effort. Victor Escobar is named to ride.

Casperino finished second in the Hedeman, despite being lightly raced coming into the race. He has since won an allowance race at this distance. Casperino lacks the early speed of many of the others, which could be to jockey Ricardo Jaime's advantage if a hot early pace develops. Casperino looks to be improving for trainer Henry Dominguez and should not be overlooked.