06/14/2006 11:00PM

Arson Squad sat out the Triple Crown wars

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - While most of the field for Saturday's Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park was fighting through the Triple Crown preps earlier this year, Arson Squad remained in the less-glamourous 3-year-old sprint division.

Arson Squad is finally ready to join the big boys in the Grade 3 Affirmed and has convinced trainer Bruce Headley that he is capable of winning going longer.

"He's really trained well for this," Headley said. "He's never run a bad race."

Owned by Mace and Samantha Siegel, Arson Squad has never been worse than third in four starts, including two wins - a maiden race in February and the San Pedro Stakes at Santa Anita in April.

Arson Squad was third as the favorite in the Grade 2 Laz Barrera Memorial Stakes at seven furlongs here on May 20, rallying from sixth to finish 1 1/2 lengths behind Northern Soldier.

The start of Arson Squad's career closely mirrors that of Headley's Surf Cat, who finished second in the Affirmed last year and went on to win the Swaps Stakes a month later. Surf Cat did not start in the 2005 Triple Crown but had a solid reputation by the time he started in the Affirmed.

Missing the Triple Crown preps or the Kentucky Derby does not concern Headley. He does not fear his rivals on Saturday.

"Everyone wants to run in the Derby, but that doesn't mean they belong," Headley said. "I had him sharp to sprint. It's time to stretch out now. Hopefully, he's a nice horse."

Foot bruise sidelines Surf Cat

Surf Cat, a three-time stakes winner this year, has been taken out of training after suffering a recurrence of a bruised foot, Headley said.

The injury was detected after Surf Cat won the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap here on May 13. He resumed galloping earlier this month when the injury resurfaced, Headley said.

Giacomo points for July return

Giacomo, the 2005 Kentucky Derby winner, worked five furlongs in 1:02.20 at Hollywood Park on Thursday and is likely to start in July, trainer John Shirreffs said.

Shirreffs ruled out a start in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 8, but said that an allowance race is a possibility.

Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Giacomo has not started since finishing fifth in the Santa Anita Handicap in early March.

Shirreffs said Giacomo is likely to have three or four races this summer and fall. Giacomo is scheduled to go to stud in Kentucky next year. While the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November is a long-term goal, the races used to get there have not been decided.

Despite Giacomo's lack of recent starts, Shirreffs is convinced the 4-year-old can play a role in the handicap division.

"We need one or two races to get ready and a couple to do well in," he said.

Premium Saltine ready for stakes company

Premium Saltine won his California debut in an optional claimer at 6 1/2 furlongs on Wednesday, earning a trip to a stakes in July.

Trained by Ted H. West for Jeffrey Sengara, Premium Saltine won by 2 1/2 lengths over Pure as Gold, finishing in 1:15.51.

"He was acting like he was this good in the morning," West said after the race.

A 7-year-old gelding, Premium Saltine won the Prairie Meadows Sprint last summer. Wednesday's race was his first start since finishing sixth in an allowance race at Churchill Downs last November.

West is considering the $300,000 Triple Bend Handicap at seven furlongs on July 2 or the $300,000 Bing Crosby Handicap at six furlongs at Del Mar on July 30.

Pure as Gold, the winner of the San Simeon Handicap on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita in April, was claimed for $100,000 by La Canada Stables and trainer Jack Carava.

The disappointment in the race was Unfurl the Flag, the winner of the 2005 Triple Bend. Making his first start since November, he fought for the early lead with Premium Saltine before fading to finish sixth. Trainer David Bernstein did not rule out a start in the Triple Bend.

Katdogawn goes from Dollase to Lloyd

Katdogawn, the promoted winner of the 2004 Santa Ana Handicap, has joined trainer Jamie Lloyd's stable. Katdogawn worked a half-mile on turf in 47.20 seconds on Thursday.

Lloyd said the mare could start in the $65,000 Redondo Beach Stakes at a mile on turf on July 8. Previously trained by Wally Dollase, Katdogawn has won 7 of 35 starts, the most recent of which was the 2005 WinStar Distaff at Lone Star Park.