07/08/2010 11:00PM

Tight match in Whiting Handicap

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Selecting the favorite in Sunday's $50,000-added Sam J. Whiting Handicap at Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, Calif., could be as tough as winning the race. The four-horse field is evenly matched and includes three horses who have taken turns beating each other.

Kelly Leak, who won the Sunland Derby and placed in the Pennsylvania Derby and Sunshine Millions Dash last year as a 3-year-old, is capable of hitting a home run but may be better routing, and the Whiting is at six furlongs.

Restless Youth, who won his lone start here, won a sprint in January in his first start off a 15-month layoff and has won two of his last three starts while setting the pace in turf routes.

Paul's Hope beat Restless Youth and Jiggly in March but has trailed Jiggly in their last two meetings.

Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Paul's Hope will be making his first start since May 13. He has recorded a series of steady works in the last month, including a five-furlong work in 58.80 seconds that was the best of 34 on July 1. Hollendorfer said Paul's Hope only needs a clean trip to win Sunday.

Trainer Bill Morey Jr. sent Jiggly to Hollywood Park for his last start June 5, when he ran sixth in the Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap. But Morey said he is confident after Jiggly had a bullet five-furlong work in 58.80.

Restless Youth has made his last three starts at a mile, but his three starts before that were run at six furlongs. Trainer Roger Hansen said he isn't concerned about shortening him up Sunday.

"If he gets the right trip sprinting, he'll be closing strong," Hansen said.

Despite the competitive field, fans can't be faulted for wondering what might have been.

Defending champion Tribesman was being pointed to the race before suffering an injury two weeks ago. He had been training well and had won his third start off a comeback.

Northern California's two top 3-year-old sprinters, Golden Winner and Goggles McCoy, both passed on the race, although Goggles McCoy will run later on the card in an allowance race.

"We think he's a very nice prospect and didn't want to come back this quickly," Hollendorfer said of Golden Winner, a six-length winner against allowance company here June 26. "We'll take him down south."

Steve Sherman, Goggles McCoy's trainer, had said all along he did not want to run against older horses in the Whiting. He will meet older, but presumably easier, competition in the allowance race.

"I'm not saying he couldn't compete, but the allowance was our first choice, and the stakes was second," Sherman said. "We just want to run him in the allowance race in his first start where he'll have to travel a little."