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With 'Action' out, others are in
ARCADIA, Calif. - The absence of Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Action This Day from Saturday's $150,000 Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita has opened the race to a wider group of 3-year-olds, some contenders and some pretenders for the Triple Crown races.
The category that fits each of the eight probables for the Grade 2, 1 1/16-mile race will be better known after the Santa Catalina is run.
Master David, Perfect Moon, St Averil, and That's an Outrage have won or placed in graded stakes on dirt. A win or placing in the Santa Catalina would confirm their status as 3-year-olds to follow in coming months.
Meanwhile, Harvard Avenue, Lucky Pulpit, Mambo Train, and Preachinatthebar need strong performances to justify continued starts in the stakes that lead to the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 3.
If Action This Day were starting in the Santa Catalina Stakes instead of waiting for the Sham Stakes on Feb. 8, there likely would not be as many candidates for the Santa Catalina.
Trainer Clifford Sise said Lucky Pulpit would have started regardless of whether Action This Day was in the field, but trainer Marcelo Polanco said the absence of Action This Day is the reason why Mambo Train is starting.
Lucky Pulpit and Mambo Train both have something to prove in the Santa Catalina, having done best on turf.
Owned by Larry Williams, Lucky Pulpit won an optional claimer over 5 1/2 furlongs on dirt at Del Mar. In the fall, he was seventh in the Norfolk Stakes on dirt before placing in two turf stakes, finishing second in the Pinjara and third in the Generous Stakes.
"He wants to try him one more time on the dirt," Sise said of Williams. "We have to try it now. If it doesn't work out, we can freshen him for the turf in the spring."
From a strategical perspective, Sise said it is key for Lucky Pulpit to have a horse to follow and not make the front too soon.
"He needs something to run at," Sise said. "Even in the morning, when he makes the lead, he loses interest."
Mambo Train has had erratic form in recent months. After winning his debut over five furlongs on turf at Del Mar in late August, he finished a troubled sixth in the Norfolk, 11th in the BC Juvenile, and 12th in the Generous.
Owned by Jeffrey Nielsen, Mambo Train rebounded to finish first in an optional claimer on turf at Hollywood Park on Dec. 19, but he was disqualified and placed second for causing interference in the stretch.
"I know he seems like a grass horse, but I want to give another chance on the dirt," Polanco said. "He's doing excellent."
Polanco threw out the BC Juvenile, citing Mambo Train's presence on the front through early fractions of 22.31 and 45.17 seconds. "He came up empty," he said. "No one would finish with those fractions."
Harvard Avenue and Preachinatthebar have not run in top stakes. Harvard Avenue was a minor stakes winner at Emerald Downs in August and was fourth in the Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate Fields last month in his California debut.
Preachinatthebar won a maiden race in his fourth career start Dec. 17. The Santa Catalina Stakes will be his stakes debut. He is trained by Bob Baffert.
The Santa Catalina field is led by Master David, the runner-up in the Remsen Stakes, and St Averil, the runner-up in the Hollywood Futurity. Master David will be making his first start for trainer Bobby Frankel, having previously been trained by Brian Meehan.
Aqueduct pick six to be offered
The Aqueduct pick six on Friday, which features a carryover of more than $761,000, will be offered for simulcast betting in California, track officials said Wednesday.
Pick six betting from Aqueduct was not available in California on Wednesday despite a substantial carryover from last weekend. Only the sixth through ninth races from Aqueduct were available at California tracks. The pick six began with the fourth race.
The decision to take a limited number of races from Aqueduct was based on a state law that restricts tracks to taking no more than an average of 23 out-of-state simulcasts per day. Tracks often take fewer than that on weekdays.
Wednesday, California tracks also took simulcast betting of eight races from Gulfstream Park, and six races from Laurel.
California bettors who wanted to play the Aqueduct pick six were only able to play the wager through the TVG account-wagering system.
Friday's Aqueduct program is threatened by cold weather. If Aqueduct does not run, races from Turf Paradise will be offered in California as a substitute.
No Strub for Ten Most Wanted
Ten Most Wanted, one of the top 3-year-olds of 2003, will not start in the $300,000 Strub Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 7 but is still a candidate for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 6, trainer Wally Dollase said.
Ten Most Wanted has not started since finishing eighth in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.
Dollase has had Ten Most Wanted in training in recent weeks but says Ten Most Wanted will not be ready for the Strub, which is run over 1 1/8 miles for 4-year-olds.
"He's a ways away," Dollase said. "I want to make sure he's dead fit. I'm hoping to get him to the Santa Anita Handicap with a prep."
Dollase said that Ten Most Wanted could be rerouted to the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds on Feb. 29.
A winner of 4 of 11 starts and $1,553,460, Ten Most Wanted has won three stakes - the Illinois Derby, Travers Stakes, and Super Derby. Last spring, he was ninth in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont Stakes.
Avanzado's stud plans
Avanzado, the winner of three graded sprints in the last 18 months, has been retired to stud at Harris Farms in Coalinga, Calif.
He will stand for $6,000, live foal.
Owned by Michael Cooper, Avanzado, 7, finished his career with 10 wins in 27 starts and earnings of $886,188. Bred in Argentina, Avanzado was a stakes winner in Argentina before he joined Doug O'Neill's stable midway through 2002.
While based with O'Neill, Avanzado won 5 of 12 starts, including the Grade 2 Forest Hills Handicap at Belmont Park in 2002 and two major stakes last year at Santa Anita - the Grade 2 Palos Verdes and Grade 1 Ancient Title handicaps.
In Dubai last March, he finished second in the $2 million Golden Shaheen, the best finish among the American-trained horses.
Avanzado made his final start in the Vernon Underwood Stakes on Nov. 27 at Hollywood Park, finishing fifth as a heavy favorite. He was entered for the El Conejo Handicap at Santa Anita on Jan. 1 but did not start. O'Neill later said Avanzado was suffering from a splint bone injury.
Cooper said there was interest from stallion farms in Kentucky and Florida. "This is my home and I look forward to breeding my mares to Avanzado and racing their foals," he said.
UPI reporter Kahn dies
Alex Kahn, a journalist for United Press International for 40 years, died of natural causes at his Los Angeles home last Saturday.
Kahn, 94, covered racing at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita. A graduate of UCLA, he served three years in the Navy during World War II. He was discharged with the rank of lieutenant commander.