06/21/2007 11:00PM

Big Booster takes a shot


PHOENIX - Gelding a horse is often the last resort to try getting an unruly, studdish animal to concentrate on his work. Trainer Mike Mitchell has succeeded with the move in the past, and he will go after Saturday's Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup with his most recent example of it, Big Booster.

Last year Mitchell claimed On the Acorn, gelded him immediately, then saddled him to victory the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at Santa Anita and Grade 2 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park. He claimed Sun Boat in Florida and gelded him, and Sun Boat just missed winning the Grade 2 Californian, losing to the Grade 1 winner Buzzards Bay.

Mitchell will see if the tactic works in the Gold Cup with Big Booster, another Florida claim who has run well since being gelded. The Gold Cup will be run at 1 1/4 miles on the Cushion Track.

Mitchell had Big Booster gelded soon after he brought him to California.

"He needed to be gelded bad," Mitchell said. "He was really tough in the post parade."

In two California starts, both at Hollywood, Big Booster ran eighth in a $62,500 claimer on the turf and then won an optional claimer on the Cushion Track. The surface switch was an important part of Big Booster's improvement, Mitchell said.

"Richard Migliore rode him back East and said the turf was too hard for him," Mitchell said. "I started him once on turf out here, and it was stinging his feet. I put him on the [Cushion Track] and he loved it."

Big Booster won his last race, at 1 1/16 miles, with a powerful rally from eighth place.

"It doesn't look like the distance will be a problem," Mitchell said of the Gold Cup. "He's got a right to take a chance at it.

"This isn't an easy race," Mitchell said. "Lava Man and Molengao are top horses, but maybe the weights will make it more equal, and for that kind of money I've got to take a shot."

A big field does not appear likely, and while Lava Man is the horse to beat, he comes off a second in the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham on the turf at Hollywood Park and a 16th-place finish in Dubai. He may not be quite the powerhouse he once was.

Molengao is surely a nice horse, and A. P. Xcellent runs as if the Cushion Track was made for him, but they do not instill the kind of fear that a horse such as Invasor does. And Buzzards Bay had a physical setback and will miss the Gold Cup.

So, for a $750,000 purse, Mitchell is wisely taking a shot.

Anamato a threat in American Oaks

If you paid attention this week to Royal Ascot you saw Australians ship in there and do very well. Now an Australian is targeting Hollywood Park and the Grade 1 American Oaks on July 7. Anamato will be the first Australian horse ever to run in that race, and she surely belongs. The filly, who by Southern Hemisphere standards is a 4-year-old, has shown quality stuff in her native land, winning the Grade 1 Australian Oaks in her last start. And she and her trainer, David Hayes, have been targeting the American Oaks for some time.

"He has been thinking about this race for six months," said Anamato's traveling caretaker, Susan Kerr. Considering the success of Japanese invaders in the American Oaks, and the Australians' performance at Royal Ascot, you'd be wrong to take Anamato lightly.

Lobo's latest from South America

It wasn't that long ago that trainer Paulo Lobo made his name in the U.S. with South American invader Farda Amiga, who won the 2002 Kentucky Oaks on her way to an Eclipse Award as top 3-year-old filly, and Pico Central, a three-time Grade 1 winner. Lobo hopes he has brought another monster to his barn here - the Brazilian star Immortelle.

A daughter of Vettori, Immortelle won 3 of 7 starts in Brazil, topped by a victory in the Grade 1 Grande Premio Diana at nearly 1 1/4 miles on the turf.

Trained in Brazil by Eduardo Garcia, Immortelle also won the Grade 2 Grande Premio 25 de Janeiro on a wet-fast main track at Sao Paulo's Cidade Jardim racecourse in January.

In her final start in Brazil, on May 19, she ran second on the turf in another Grade 1. She was sent to the United States by owners Stud Ced. She was bred by Mario Moglias Haras Fronteira, the breeders of Pico Central. Consider yourself warned.