02/25/2011 5:46PM

Baffert sorting through his Big Cap candidates

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Barbara D. Livingston
First Dude appears probable for next Saturday's Santa Anita Handicap, but trainer Bob Baffert could have as many as three other starters in the race.

Trainer Bob Baffert may have as many as four starters in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 5, but said on Friday that he is unlikely to finalize his team until Monday .

Baffert is likely to start First Dude, who was second to the Baffert-trained Lookin At Lucky in the Preakness Stakes last year. Baffert began training First Dude earlier this month, after the colt finished a troubled fourth in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 29 for trainer Dale Romans.

On Thursday, First Dude worked five furlongs in 58.20 seconds, pleasing Baffert.

“He did it in the right way,” Baffert said. “I think he’s earned his way into the spot.”

Baffert may also start Game on Dude, who won an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 27; Spurrier, who was second in the San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 6; and possibly Tweebster, who was second in the Grade 2 Strub Stakes on Feb. 5.

In the Strub, Tweebster finished 4 1/2 lengths behind Twirling Candy, who will be a strong favorite in the Big Cap.

Twirling Candy is one of two expected runners trained by John Sadler, who may start San Antonio winner Gladding. Sadler said on Friday that Gladding’s post position could determine whether he starts, or is held out of the Big Cap in favor of the $100,000 Tokyo City Cup over 1 1/2 miles on March 26.

“The deciding factor will be, ‘can he be second?’ ” said Sadler, who is very confident in Twirling Candy’s chances. “It’s a decision of how he draws.”

If Baffert starts four and Sadler runs two, the race could have as many as 11 runners. The other candidates are Aggie Engineer, Pode Ir, Quindici Man, Setsuko, and Soul Candy.

Quindici Man worked six furlongs in 1:12 on Friday. Trained by Craig Lewis, Quindici Man has won 7 of 31 starts and $393,316. He was fourth in the San Antonio Stakes.

Talamo sits out three days

Jockey Joe Talamo, who rides Aggie Engineer in the Santa Anita Handicap, is in the midst of a three-day suspension for causing interference in the San Carlos Handicap on Feb. 20. Talamo rode runner-up Captain Cherokee, who was not disqualified despite drifting out in deep stretch and causing fourth-place finisher Ventana to take be steadied late.

Talamo’s suspension began on Saturday and continues through Thursday. Through Thursday, Talamo was third in the jockey standings with 33 wins, trailing leader Rafael Bejarano who has 52 wins.

◗ A team of Santa Anita jockeys defeated the eighth grade team from nearby Holy Angels school, 36-35 in overtime, in a charity basketball game on Thursday evening. The annual game, played for the 44th time, benefits the athletic department from Holy Angels and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. The game was played before a sold out crowd at a local high school.