02/14/2006 12:00AM

Bias favors Fast and Furious


ARCADIA, Calif. - Someday, a Santa Anita turf race will be won by the pacesetter. But over the past month, the only thing as predictable as the California weather has been the constant surrender of grass-course front-runners.

Heading into a new racing week, a month had passed since a Santa Anita two-turn grass race had been won by the pacesetter. Since front-runner Early Ronan won on Jan. 16, 28 grass routes were won, all from behind. One turf route was scheduled Wednesday, and if the bias continues, it will play into the strength of the best horse in Thursday's race-7 feature.

That horse, , has shown the promise of becoming a top-class turf horse, and several creditable efforts against Grade 1 opposition have done nothing to dissuade trainer Ron McAnally. But it has been nearly two years since Fast and Furious last won, on June 20, 2004.

Runner-up in the Hollywood Derby, and third in the Shoemaker Mile, Fast and Furious faces seven rivals Thursday in a classified turf race at 1 1/8 miles.

The turf rails will be at their outermost setting - 30 feet - Thursday, but over the past month placement of the rails has given no advantage to speed. all possess front-running styles. Over an unbiased course, a case could be made for any of them. But their running style on the pro-closers surface tilt the race in favor of Fast and Furious. A winner of 4 of 12, Fast and Furious ran fifth in his comeback race on Jan. 20, but it was better than it looks on paper.

Racing wide most of the one-mile race, Fast and Furious cut loose with a possibly premature move on the far turn, then lost his punch and lost by 3 1/4 lengths. The winner, Terroplane, returned to finish an unlucky second in the $75,000 Thunder Road Handicap; fourth-place finisher Capitano returned Saturday to win the $75,000 Turf Paradise Handicap.

Victor Espinoza rides Fast and Furious on Thursday. Uncle Denny, a stakes winner who finished second, beaten a half-length and in front of Fast and Furious last out, will try to overcome the course bias. He also will have to put away graded stakes-placed Wild Buddy and improving front-runner Warrior Song. Clipperdown, One Off, Sort It Out, and Sam Forli also are entered.