02/06/2009 12:00AM

Telling out to go 4 for 4 over track

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Telling will have to defeat a strong group of older horses to keep his perfect Oaklawn Park record intact on Saturday when he starts in the $100,000 Essex Handicap.

Golden Yank, who just missed in the Grade 3 Colonel Bradley at Fair Grounds, is the 119-pound highweight in the Essex, which also drew Solar Flare, the runner-up in last year's Grade 1 Suburban, and Going Ballistic, the richest member of the field with earnings of $942,082. Trainer Jinks Fires sends out a pair of Oaklawn stakes winners in Spotsgone, the winner of last year's Essex, and Prom Shoes, who won the $100,000 Fifth Season.

Telling was 3 for 3 last year at Oaklawn, winning his maiden and two conditioned allowances, all at the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Essex. He went on to place in three Grade 3 races, and appears poised to raise his game even more in 2009.

"By all rights, he should be better," said Steve Hobby, who trains Telling. "He was so lightly raced last year as a 4-year-old and had to run against all the older horses that had so much more seasoning than him. He's supposed to be better this year."

Telling, who in his last start was third in the Grade 3 River City Handicap, is moving back to dirt following that 1 1/8-mile turf race Nov.o22 at Churchill. Eddie Razo Jr., who rode Telling last year at Oaklawn, reunites with him for the Essex.

Solar Flare is appealing on a class angle since he has lined up against some of the best in his division, finishing a half-length behind Frost Giant in the Suburban at Belmont in June, then seventh to Commentator in the Whitney at Saratoga in July. He came out of the Whitney with a "sprained ankle," said his trainer, Larry Jones, and has since come back to win a $75,000 optional claimer at the Meadowlands in October.

"Solar Flare has done well," Jones said Thursday. "He had a good work over here, and I thought yesterday was one of the best gallops I'd ever had on him."

Going Ballistic made his first start since May in the allowance prep for the Essex, finishing fifth in a race that lacked hot fractions.

"Obviously, he's better suited when there's a lot of pace in the race," said his trainer, Donnie Von Hemel.