03/07/2008 1:00AM

Trail This defends title in Coyote


PHOENIX - Trail This stamped himself the top sprinter at Turf Paradise with a pair of big stakes wins here in January. But the 5-year-old found the California invaders too much to handle when seventh in the Phoenix Gold Cup Handicap here Feb. 16. He looks to make things right in Sunday's $50,000 Coyote Handicap.

The 6 1/2-furlong race, restricted to horses that started here this meet, drew a field of nine, and Trail This is the defending champion.

Owned and trained by Bob Score, Trail This made his name as a router.

He beat allowance foes here in November 2006 going a mile. He won the Last Chance Derby at 1 1/16 miles and the Chuck N Luck at a mile soon after. He dueled for the lead and faltered when trying grass for the first time in the Turf Paradise Handicap, but bounced back with a career-best effort, romping to victory by 4 1/2 lengths in the Coyote Handicap last March - earning a huge 101 Beyer Speed Figure.

But he wasn't seen again until this past December, when he ran a close sixth in the Answer Do. Then he got back on track.

He won the Swift (98 Beyer) and G Malleah (97 Beyer), sending him into the Phoenix Gold Cup with high hopes, only to have them dashed by the strong California invaders. The fact that he was a bit fractious in the gate before the start couldn't have helped. Ry Eikleberry rides again.

Snowbound Halo, trained by Jimmie Pickard, may be the spoiler. He actually beat Trail This in the Phoenix Gold Cup. He broke slowly and rushed up to stalk the pace before faltering to finish sixth. Prior to that race he won an allowance sprint here Jan. 19, earning a 99 Beyer. That was his first start since the 2007 Phoenix Gold Cup, so he may well improve on Sunday. He has the ability to win, having won the 2007 G Malleah with a 102 Beyer. Jocelyne Kenny rides.

Nationhood merits respect for trainer Mike Chambers. He was a tiger at Emerald Downs, posting three straight wins, then came here and won the Oct. 16 Zip Pocket in a romp. He was then second in the Caballos Del Sol Nov. 3 and Hank Mills Sr. Handicap Dec. 8. He got away slowly and ended up fourth behind Trail This, beaten three lengths, in the Swift Stakes on Jan. 5.