03/27/2008 12:00AM

Big Booster going farther


ARCADIA, Calif. - A 10th-place finish by Big Booster in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 1 left trainer Mike Mitchell baffled. Big Booster had finished third in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup last summer, but was never a factor in the Big Cap.

Mitchell is ready to try something completely different. He is starting Big Booster in the longest race of his career in Saturday's $100,000 Tokyo City Handicap at 1o1/2 miles on the synthetic main track at Santa Anita.

"I thought he would run a big race and he didn't," Mitchell said of the Big Cap. "I think a mile and a half will be perfect for him."

The Grade 3 Tokyo City Handicap is being run for the first time at 1 1/2 miles. For the seven entrants, it will be the first time they have run that far on a synthetic track.

Zappa, the 116-pound starting highweight, has won at 1 3/8 miles on dirt and was fifth in the Santa Anita Handicap. He won the Gradeo2 San Antonio Handicap in February and will be favored.

Church Service, Niagara Causeway, and Rocket Legs have run 1 1/2 miles on turf, with mixed results. Big Booster, Plug Me In, and Rathor are trying 1 1/2 miles for the first time.

Big Booster, 7, is winless in five Grade 1 and Grade 2 stakes since winning an optional claimer going 1o1/16 miles at Hollywood Park last May. Big Booster is making his 42nd start, and seeking his ninth win and first stakes win.

He will be ridden by Richard Migliore, who was aboard the gelding when he won his career debut in a one-mile race on dirt at Belmont in September 2003.

"Big Booster is not an easy horse to ride," Mitchell said. "Maybe Migliore will fit him better."

Mitchell also starts Church Service, who was second in the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo Handicap on turf on Feb. 23.

Rathor won a maiden race at 1o1/4 miles on Polytrack in England in 2005 and has won three route races at 1 1/16 miles in this country. Trained by Bobby Frankel, Rathor is seeking his first stakes win.

The distance will not be a problem for Rocket Legs, who won a maiden race at 1 1/2 miles on turf at Kentucky Downs last September and an allowance race at 1 1/4 miles on the main track at Hollywood Park in December. He is winless in two turf stakes this year.