11/11/2005 12:00AM

Tepexpan looks to ride inside bias


CHICAGO - It has been suggested that a prevailing inside bias has recently existed on the main track at Hawthorne Race Course, and if there is truth to that suggestion, is the horse for the featured first race here on Sunday.

And yes, the feature does come early on a nine-race program. Racing secretary Gary Duch does not hesitate to move the highest-class allowance race of the day to the front of the card if, like the Sunday feature, the race doesn't lure a large field. Later on the nine-race program come an entry-level allowance for 2-year-old sprinters (race 8) that drew a field of nine, and an entry-level turf allowance (race 9) that attracted 11 entries.

There are just six in the Sunday opener, carded for six furlongs, but the race still is a decent one. Tepexpan is one of five horses coming out of a second-level allowance sprint here Oct. 23, a race in which he dead-heated with return rival for second behind the Michigan invader Cherokee Prince. What Tepexpan has that Royal Master does not is early speed, and that could make all the difference Sunday. Angelic Morgan L. wound up a distant seventh in that Oct. 23 dash, but broke last, taking him out of his game, and when Angelic Morgan L. leaves the gate on time he tends to show speed.

Still, the guess here is that Tepexpan can secure the lead and, perhaps more importantly, the rail. Mostly a middle-distance horse during a two-season career, Tepexpan was turned back to a sprint last time out in his first start for trainer Eusebio Razo Sr., and he still showed his typical early foot. Tepexpan has since worked a half-mile, and nearly always breaks well, an all-important attribute from a horse one is counting on going to the front.

Royal Master ran well dead-heating with Tepexpan, and has not finished worse than third in his last five starts. But while Royal Master's recent form has been strong, he lingered long in the first allowance condition, and may not get the same sort of hot, contested pace that set up his stretch run last time. There is also the fact that stretch runners trying to rally wide in recent days at Hawthorne basically have run in place.

The 2-year-old entry-level allowance seems wide open, unless the addition of blinkers on Star by Design pushes him over the hump. A close third in his last two starts, Star by Design has drawn the rail, but might be best-suited to a stalking trip. One to watch here is Prayforsnow, a sharp debut winner in his only race.