08/03/2010 12:32PM

Uncle Jeep tries to get elusive first Del Mar win for Carava

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DEL MAR, Calif. – Uncle Jeep, a former $16,000 claimer who has been successful in turf sprints this year, may give trainer Jack Carava his elusive first winner of the Del Mar meeting on Thursday.

Carava is winless with his first seven starters, which he said has not been a surprise. A private trainer for La Canada Stable, Carava had a successful Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting earlier this year, winning 18 races, or with 26 percent of his starters.

“We were definitely forecasting a slow start, and it may be a slow first half [at Del Mar],” Carava said.

Uncle Jeep was a winner for Carava at Hollywood Park, in a $25,000 claimer over six furlongs on turf on May 25. Thursday, Uncle Jeep starts in a competitive optional claimer over five furlongs on turf.

The race representes a major class jump from the $16,000 claiming level that Uncle Jeep was racing at last summer at Del Mar when taken by Carava. Since then, Uncle Jeep has run in claiming races ranging in value from $12,500 to $40,000 and in two allowance races.

Carava is more concerned about the pace scenario for Thursday’s race than the class level. The turf sprint has drawn several quick horses and Uncle Jeep will start from the rail. Uncle Jeep, who will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, can lead, but is also effective racing behind the pacesetters.

The two horses drawn to his outside – Grace Upon Grace and Winter Camp – have speed. Grace Upon Grace won a six-furlong $40,000 claimer on the main track here on July 23, while Winter Camp led throughout a $20,000 claimer at Hollywood Park on June 27, the day he was claimed by trainer Peter Miller.

“I know Winter Camp is quick,” Carava said. “If [Uncle Jeep] gets a comfortable trip, he’ll try. Maybe Rafael can sit and work out a comfortable trip.”

The race drew a field of 12, but will have a safety limit of eight starters. Quick Enough, claimed for $32,000 at Del Mar on July 25, and Bradium, beaten a nose in an allowance race at Hollywood Park in June, also have speed.

The race features the California debut of Square Deal, who was fifth in the Calder Turf Sprint Handicap last month. Now trained by Kristin Mulhall, Square Deal won two restricted $25,000 claimers in the spring.