02/06/2007 12:00AM

A.P. Xcellent has lots going his way

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ARCADIA, Calif. - A.P. Xcellent will be loose on the lead in the seventh-race feature Thursday at Santa Anita. The scenario does not ensure victory for A.P. Xcellent, but it makes him look awfully tempting in the 1 1/2-mile turf race.

Eight older horses entered the second-level allowance, which has a $62,500 claiming option. A.P. Xcellent, a son of A.P. Indy, will try to rebound after finishing last in the Grade 2 San Fernando on Jan. 13. John Shirreffs trains A.P. Xcellent, a 2-for-7 colt who won his two previous starts, including a highly rated first-level allowance. Win or lose, A.P. Xcellent is the horse to catch Thursday under Victor Espinoza.

The tight configuration of the turf course further complements A.P. Xcellent. With the turf rails at 30 feet, speed often carries. Barring unexpected strategy from one of the other runners, A.P. Xcellent could have everything his own way out front.

The field includes On the Acorn, Tenash, Steal Your Thunder, Big Mistake, Sensational Score, Sacred Light, and Victory Sign. On the Acorn and Tenash were scratched from a similar spot last week when light rain forced a 1 1/8-mile race onto the main track. The extra week, and three additional furlongs, favors On the Acorn.

"At a mile and a half, I think you get a lot of horses that can't run that far," trainer Mike Mitchell said. On the Acorn, he said, "will run two miles."

On the Acorn was claimed for $40,000 in November by Mitchell for a partnership that includes Santa Anita publicist Jack Disney.

The day after the claim, Mitchell had On the Acorn gelded.

"I'd heard he was tough to train," Mitchell explained.

In his first start for his new owners, On the Acorn inexplicably set the pace before fading to ninth. He switched riders to Brice Blanc for his next start, Jan. 13, and rallied to a head victory in an optional $40,000 claimer.

On the Acorn's potential to stay 1o1/2 miles makes him a reasonable gamble. Though speed figures are less relevant on grass, a comparison between On the Acorn and A.P. Xcellent is revealing. On the Acorn has earned Beyer Speed Figures of 90 or above five times, while A.P. Xcellent has earned 90 just once. If A.P. Excellent cannot stay the distance, On the Acorn can win from behind.

Big Mistake and Sensational Score drop from the San Fernando. Steal Your Thunder has enough speed to keep A.P. Xcellent honest. Tenash, Sacred Light, and Victory Sign will rally from behind.