Updated on 09/16/2011 8:51AM

Surface switch did the trick


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - A change in surface has given Fantastic Groom a new career this year.

At this time last year, Fantastic Groom was uncompetitive in starter allowance races on dirt. With a switch to turf, he has King Max Farms and trainer Pico Perdomo wondering if he could develop into a stakes-caliber horse.

To move closer to that level, Fantastic Groom must win races such as Thursday's seventh at Hollywood Park, a $45,000 allowance over 1 1/16 miles on turf.

"He hates the main track," Perdomo said of Fantastic Groom, a son of In the Swing (by Blushing Groom). "The breeding was for grass. I told the owners, 'The only chance the horse will have for us is grass.' "

Fantastic Groom is one of nine entrants in the first-condition allowance race. The field also includes Groom on the Run, who was sixth in the California Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 2; El Nuki, who runs a route on turf for the first time; and Onetrickphoney, who finished behind Fantastic Groom last month.

Fantastic Groom has made his last five starts on turf. A 4-year-old, Fantastic Groom won a starter allowance race on turf at Del Mar on Aug. 21. He followed with a troubled sixth in an allowance race at Santa Anita on Oct. 26, clipping heels at the quarter pole and losing all chance.

When he reappeared in an allowance race here on Nov. 15, Fantastic Groom finished a nose behind winner Good Meeting after leading to the last stride.

"Every time, he gets better with racing," Perdomo said. "He's coming along nicely and he's improving."

Fantastic Groom is not a one-dimensional front-runner. He has won from a stalking position, but is likely to be near the front Thursday under Omar Berrio.

If Fantastic Groom wins on Thursday, Perdomo may point him to the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita on Jan. 25.

Groom on the Run will attract support. Before his sixth in the California Cup, he ran fourth, beaten 1 1/2 lengths, in an allowance race for California-breds at Santa Anita on Oct. 3. He may have been best that day, but was stuck in traffic in the stretch.

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