12/23/2008 12:00AM

All eyes turn to a new generation


ARCADIA, Calif. - A year ago this week, Big Brown was three months removed from his debut win in a maiden race, and was still three months away from making his second start. He was barely on the radar of Kentucky Derby prospects. But in a dizzying spring, he won an allowance race, the Florida Derby, and then the Kentucky Derby, then later added the Preakness Stakes and Haskell Invitational.

When Santa Anita opens on Friday, the focal point of the day will be on the Malibu Stakes, featuring the likes of Colonel John, Georgie Boy, and Into Mischief, who were among this circuit's top Derby prospects as 2007 turned to 2008. As the meet progresses, though, the spotlight will inevitably shift to the 2009 class of 3-year-olds.

The landscape on the West Coast's 2009 Derby prospects changed significantly following the Breeders' Cup. Midshipman, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, left town in order to spend the winter in Dubai, joining the Champagne Stakes winner Vineyard Haven. Coronet of a Baron and Desert Party, whom Eoin Harty trained for Darley Stables, also left for Dubai. Street Hero, third in the BC Juvenile, suffered a career-ending injury.

The list is now topped by Square Eddie, the BC Juvenile runner-up, and Pioneerof the Nile, who won last Saturday's CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park. Yet with so little depth among the current leading contenders, this Santa Anita season, more than any in recent years, seems ripe for a horse who heretofore has barely raced, or not raced at all, to make a significant impact by the time the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby is run on April 4.

Majormotionpicture might be the one. A chestnut-colored colt by BC Juvenile winner Action This Day - who is by the Roberto stallion Kris S. - and out of a Rahy mare, Majormotionpicture was a debut winner at Del Mar going six furlongs on Aug. 24, but has not been seen since. His trainer, Mike Machowsky, said Majormotionpicture will make his next start in a stakes race early next year, in either the Grade 3, $100,000 San Rafael Stakes at one mile on Jan. 17, or the $70,000 San Pedro Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs on Jan. 19.

"I was going to run him in an allowance race the first couple days of the meet, but he had a little bit of a temperature, and his blood work came back a little weak, so we're going to have to skip that," Machowsky said. "He's so damn talented, I'm not worried about going into a stakes race. I'm going to have to be pretty aggressive with him the next few months.

"The one thing he needs is experience. If he's good enough, it won't be an issue. After the next race, he can run in the Sham and then the Santa Anita Derby. The timing is good, about five weeks apart. He trains like he could be any kind."

One of the most promising unstarted local 2-year-olds, Point Encounter, is set to make his debut on Friday, in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race, the third on the opening-day card. Carla Gaines trains Point Encounter, a son of Point Given, who has a series of swift works the past five weeks at Santa Anita.

There are two first-level allowance races coming up, one scheduled for 6 1/2 furlongs on Sunday, the other at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 1, that are expected to attract several horses who thus far have only a maiden win to their credit.

Bobby Frankel, who trained and co-owned Vineyard Haven until the colt was sold to Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing, has high hopes for Brother Keith, a Johar colt who won sprinting at Churchill Downs in his lone start. He could run Sunday after working five furlongs in 1:02.80 on Monday at Santa Anita.

"He trains good on the all-weather," Frankel said. "He's a nice horse."

Frankel has an unstarted A.P. Indy colt named Andiron - a half-brother to Blue Grass winner The Cliff's Edge - who is also worth following. "He's a big, beautiful horse," Frankel said. Andiron worked six furlongs in 1:14.60 at Santa Anita on Saturday.

Also readying for an allowance race is Position A, an Aldebaran colt trained by Richard Mandella who defeated maidens at Hollywood Park on Dec. 6.

"He showed a lot of class and determination," Mandella said. "He's got room to grow. He's such a kindhearted horse. He's not a show-off, which might be an asset in the long run."

Gato Go Win, a City Place colt trained by Jeff Mullins, defeated Position A in a maiden race at Hollywood on Nov. 8 and prepped for his return with a five-furlong drill in 1:02.40 here on Monday.

Other lightly raced horses to follow include Fitzmo, a Seattle Fitz colt trained by Adam Kitchingman who won a highly rated maiden race here during the Oak Tree meeting, and The Pamplemousse, a Kafwain colt who found his best form when stretched out around two turns in a maiden win at Hollywood on Dec. 14 for trainer Julio Canani.

Bob Baffert, who trains Pioneerof the Nile, thinks his maidens Mayor Marv, by Distorted Humor, and Turk, by Vindication, could progress this winter.

Of those with more established form, Square Eddie, trained by Doug O'Neill, is awaiting the San Rafael, and Believe in Hope, third in the Norfolk Stakes, is scheduled to return in the Grade 2, $150,000 San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs on Feb. 16, trainer Ron Ellis said.