04/07/2010 11:00PM

Ace of Aces learning to rate

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ARCADIA, Calif. - When Ace of Aces arrived in California last fall, trainer Jeff Mullins schooled the 2-year-old repeatedly at the gate, hoping to sharpen his ability to break.

It worked a little too well, and Mullins spent the winter teaching Ace of Aces to be patient. This spring, there are signs that a balance has been achieved, which Mullins hopes will lead to Ace of Aces's first stakes win in Saturday's $100,000 La Puente Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on turf at Santa Anita.

Mullins credits jockey Martin Garcia for working with Ace of Aces to teach the gelding to rate behind horses.

"When we got him here, we were worried about him breaking slowly and we got him a little too keyed up," Mullins said. "Martin Garcia has been working him behind horses and he's been settling really well. He'll be forwardly placed and he'll make one run."

Ace of Aces has won 1 of 5 starts, with the victory coming in a maiden race over a mile here on turf on Dec. 27 in which he led throughout. The results have been mixed since. He was third in an optional claimer over 1 1/8 miles on turf on Jan. 27, and second in the Baffle Stakes on the hillside turf course on Feb. 13.

In the optional claiming race, Ace of Aces's saddle slipped, leaving jockey Joe Talamo "with no control of the horse," Mullins said.

In the turf sprint, Ace of Aces was too eager. "We thought we'd run him down the hill and sit behind horses and make one run," Mullins said. "He ran off."

The La Puente drew a field of nine 3-year-olds, and there are no stakes winners. Ace of Aces is one of five runners in the field who began their careers in Europe.

Runaway Bandido has been in California throughout his career. Trained by Rafael Becerra, Runaway Bandido was third in the California Cup Juvenile last fall, and is winless in his last seven starts. He was fourth, beaten a length, in an allowance race for older statebreds on the synthetic main track here on April 1.

Lucky Rave was third in the Grade 3 Generous Stakes last November, but has been unplaced in two starts this year, including a troubled sixth in the Pasadena Stakes on March 6.

Three horses are making their stakes debut - Turns My Head, Dream Nettie, and Bogie. Turns My Head, the lone filly in Saturday's race, won a maiden race over 1 1/8 miles on turf here on March 20 in her third start.