01/24/2008 12:00AM

War Monger aims to sit back in Turf


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Bill Mott is unabashed in his description of War Monger, his 4-year-old colt entered in Saturday's $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream Park.

"He's a monster," Mott said.

However, Mott believes War Monger may prove to be a top-flight miler. But for the purse, Mott couldn't pass up the opportunity to run War Monger in the Sunshine Millions Turf at 1 1/8 miles.

"You got to try it, you can't sit in the barn just because it's not your favorite distance," Mott said.

War Monger is one of 12 horses entered in the Sunshine Millions Turf, one of four races in the Sunshine Millions series - which pits Florida-breds against California-breds - that will be run at Gulfstream Park. Four additional Sunshine Millions races are scheduled to be run Saturday at Santa Anita.

War Monger, a son of War Chant, has won 3 of 6 starts and ended his 3-year-old season with a 1 1/2-length victory in the Rutgers Stakes at Monmouth Park last October. In that race, he came from off the pace. Prior to that, War Monger finished fourth behind Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Grade 2 Jamaica Handicap, a race in which War Monger opened up a big early lead.

"He was up on the lead and he was doing all the running and he actually ran a pretty good race," Mott said. "It was a pretty good race, but he's probably a little better when he's back off the pace."

Mott is hoping jockey Kent Desormeaux will be able to get War Monger off the pace from the rail on Saturday.

Mott also will run Pickapocket, who has not won since taking the Pilgrim Stakes as a 2-year-old when trained by Frank Alexander. In his first start for Mott just 14 days ago, Pickapocket finished seventh in a third-level allowance race.

"He was a little rank last time," Mott said. "He took a lot of heat going into the second turn and flattened out. He had been off since June."

Shaun Bridgmohan rides Pickapocket from post 2.

Ruff and Ready is the horse that beat Pickapocket last time and he is also entered in this race. Trainer Todd Pletcher does not often run his horses back on such short rest, and he said Thursday that he hasn't made a final decision whether to run or not. Ruff and Ready was very game rallying up the rail in that race.

Pletcher is certain that he will run the 7-year-old Icy Atlantic, who hasn't started since finishing ninth in the Breeders' Cup Mile over a soft Monmouth course. Icy Atlantic, second to Lava Man in this race last year, won the Grade 3 Red Bank and Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap last year.

"I think he's training about as well as I've ever seen him train," Pletcher said. "I hope he's not too fresh; he's been pretty sharp in the morning. But he seems as he's matured, he's become more settled."

Presious Passion enters the Sunshine Millions off a 67-1 upset victory in the Grade 2 William McKnight Handicap at Calder in his last start. That he breaks from post 12 doesn't bother trainer Mary Hartmann.

"I'd rather be 12 than one with him going a mile and an eighth," Hartmann said. "I like him on the outside. He's got enough speed to get out of there and get a position and go on with it."

Other contenders in the field include Birdbirdistheword, French Vintage, Epic Power, and Soldier's Dancer.