05/22/2007 11:00PM

Super Strut may end dry spell

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - For a few moments last August, Super Strut appeared on the verge of winning the first graded stakes of his career. He was second in the stretch of the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on turf, but wound up third, 1o1/2 lengths behind T.H. Approval.

A win in a marathon turf race is realistic for Super Strut in Friday's $75,000 Quicken Tree Stakes at 1 1/2 miles on turf at Hollywood Park. While the race for statebreds has drawn a modest field of five, it could serve as a prep to longer, more prestigious races for Super Strut.

"He should love the distance," trainer Craig Dollase said of Friday's race. "He ran well at Del Mar over longer distances."

Owned by a partnership, Super Strut is winless in five starts this year, but was beaten only a half-length when fifth in the Khaled Stakes for statebreds at 1 1/8 miles on turf here on April 29. He is winless in 10 starts since the Crystal Water Handicap at a mile on turf at Santa Anita in March 2006.

The Quicken Tree will be Super Strut's first start at 1 1/2 miles on turf, which is not a concern for Dollase.

"Those kind of races are tactical," Dollase said. "They go so slow. The jockeys try to slow it down to a pedestrian pace."

Ring of Friendship, who won a $32,000 claimer race at 1 1/4 miles on turf on April 18, is likely to inherit the lead. He was third in an optional claimer at 1o1/4 miles here on Mayo12.

Stephen Bruce is the only entrant coming off a win, an allowance race for California-breds at a mile on turf at Santa Anita on April 19.

Master Heat and Running Free both finished second in their last start.

Master Heat was second behind Ring of Friendship on April 18, and was claimed that day for $32,000. The Quicken Tree is Master Heat's first start for trainer Jack Carava.

Running Free was beaten a neck in the Khaled. His last win came in the Harry Brubaker Handicap at Del Mar in August 2005. Trainer Kristin Mulhall is skeptical of Running Free's chances on Friday, but thinks the race is worth a shot.

"It's too far, but it's a five-horse field," Mulhall said. "We're so limited in spots for him. He's not a true mile-and-a-half horse."