05/30/2010 12:00AM

Tricky pace puzzle in Lone Star Handicap


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - The richest race of the meet may also be the season's toughest to figure. The field for Monday's $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap is deep and the pace is difficult to read.

Headed by Awesome Gem and Mythical Power, the 1 1/16-mile race is the centerpiece of Lone Star Million Day.

Euroears, a stakes-winning sprinter, could wind up getting a favorable tracking trip from his outside post behind the rail-drawn Jonesboro. Mythical Power's tactical speed might put him right off those two in what would be an ideal stalking position as he attempts to become the first horse to complete a sweep of the three richest dirt races in Texas. And then there is Awesome Gem and Redding Colliery, who find themselves in the unusual spot of cutting back to two turns after racing around three in the $1 million Charles Town Classic.

The pace puzzle makes the Grade 3 Lone Star the best betting race on a card of seven stakes worth more than $1 million. The program also drew Wasted Tears, one of the nation's top turf mares who goes in the Grade 3 Ouija Board, and El Gato Malo, who makes his first start since the Breeders' Cup in the Dallas Turf Cup.

A return trip to the Breeders' Cup is a long-term goal for Awesome Gem, who closed fast to finish second at Charles Town with a Beyer Figure of 105. The number equaled the career-high Beyer he earned in 2007, when third in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Awesome Gem on Monday will break from post 3 under David Flores.

"He's typically not too far off the pace," said Craig Dollase, who trains Awesome Gem. "We'll take advantage of the inside and save some ground, and move out when the time is right."

Redding Colliery, who was third in the Charles Town Classic, can be closer to the pace than Awesome Gem in what might give him a tactical advantage on the cut-back from 1 1/8 miles.

"I would think he'd be forwardly placed, one-two-three-four," said Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains the up and coming Redding Colliery. "He's a really nice horse. Last winter in Dubai he ran third against Desert Party and Regal Ransom."

Mythical Power won the Grade 3, $400,000 Lone Star Derby in 2009, then returned here last month to take the Grade 3, $200,000 Texas Mile. A win Monday would make him the second horse to sweep the Texas Mile and Lone Star in the same year. Dixie Dot Com won both races in 2001.

Martin Garcia has the mount for trainer Bob Baffert.