02/23/2009 12:00AM

All eyes on Zambezi Sun in U.S. debut

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The United States debut of the high-class European import Zambezi Sun makes for a compelling edition of the Grade 2, $150,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap at Santa Anita in Sunday, but the lineup that Zambezi Sun might face at post time could be significantly altered from the original field of 14 that was entered.

Bobby Frankel, who trains Zambezi Sun, also entered Champs Elysees, but said Champs Elysees will await the Santa Anita Handicap on March 7.

"I just put him in for insurance," Frankel said. In addition, trainer Neil Drysdale said he was unlikely to run all three of the horses he entered - Artiste Royal, Marsh Side, and Obrigado. Drysdale said Artiste Royal might instead race March 7 in the Kilroe Mile.

The last two winners of this race - Obrigado (2007) and Spring House (2008) - are back, but all eyes will be on Zambezi Sun. A Group 1 winner in France, he raced against the best there last year, chasing the likes of Duke of Marmalade, Soldier of Fortune, Youmzain, and Zarkava. He has not raced since running poorly in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Oct. 5.

"He's doing great," Frankel said Friday morning at Santa Anita. "He looked really good breezing yesterday."

Zambezi Sun will get Lasix for the first time, Frankel said.

Zambezi Sun is prone to run with his head up and be headstrong early, so Frankel's biggest concern is that Zambezi Sun settles and gets cover so he doesn't run off during the first part of the 1 1/2-mile grass race. Frankel said jockey Garrett Gomez "has to come out with a loose rein."

Drysdale said Marsh Side, seventh in the San Marcos, "needs soft ground."

"If the ground's too firm, he will not run," Drysdale said. "He needs cut in the ground."

Obrigado, eighth in the San Marcos, found "the ground quite hard for him the other day," Drysdale said. He is hoping the rain earlier this week softened the turf enough to suit both Marsh Side and Obrigado.

Medici Code lost a heartbreaker in the San Marcos, losing by a nose. Spring House was only 1o3/4 lengths farther back in fourth.

Church Service is making his first start since finishing third to Champs Elysees and Obrigado in the Hollywood Turf Cup on Dec. 6. He was second in this race last year to Spring House.