05/25/2004 11:00PM

There's no rushing Choctaw Nation


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The breathtaking rally that carried Choctaw Nation from last to first in a little more than a quarter-mile at Santa Anita on April 18 looked the move of a potential stakes horse.

Not so fast, trainer Jeff Mullins said.

Mullins wants to take a slower approach to the 4-year-old's career, giving Choctaw Nation a chance to win another allowance race or two before stakes are considered.

Friday evening at Hollywood Park, will attempt to stretch his unbeaten streak to four in a $54,000 optional claimer over 1 1/8 miles.

"We've got to get through his conditions first," Mullins said.

Friday's allowance race, the fifth race on an eight-race program, will be the longest race of Choctaw Nation's brief career.

His first three starts came at Santa Anita and unfolded in similar fashion. Each time, Choctaw Nation was last early and made a sweeping move to win.

Against maiden claimers over 6 1/2 furlongs in his career debut on Feb. 29, he closed from last in a field of eight to win by 2 1/2 lengths. It turned out to be his only start for trainer Bruce Headley, as Mullins claimed Choctaw Nation for $40,000 that day on behalf of Robert Bone.

In a starter allowance over 1 1/16 miles on March 28, Choctaw Nation closed from eighth to win by 4 1/2 lengths.

On April 18, Choctaw Nation trailed by 10 lengths on the final turn and scored by 1 1/4 lengths, again at 1 1/16 miles.

"It's the only way he wants to run," Mullins said. "I don't think you could make him lay closer. The other thing that concerns me is how he'll run at Hollywood Park."

Choctaw Nation has six opponents in Friday's race. Fonz's, Forty Suertudo, and Mud Shark should be close to the pace, which will help Choctaw Nation.

Mud Shark and Fonz's finished second and third in a tough allowance race over 1 1/16 miles here April 30.

was ninth in the Grade 2 Strub Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 7, the first loss of his current three-race losing streak.

Mud Shark was ridden by Patrick Valenzuela on April 30, but will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux on Friday. Valenzuela said he will not be riding at Hollywood Park on Friday and Saturday to attend his daughter's high school graduation in Colorado.

Forty Suertudo, the only horse entered for a $62,500 claiming price, may show speed. A stakes winner in Argentina, he is winless in three starts in this country.