02/28/2006 12:00AM

Big Cap bettors might pick up clues here


ARCADIA, Calif. - A normal weekday card at Santa Anita has little bearing on the graded-stakes program. Thursday is not normal.

The eight-race program includes an interesting mix of allowance and maiden races that will shed light on the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap card Saturday.

Bettors who like High Limit or Spellbinder in the Big Cap may consider Bully Hayes the horse to beat Thursday in a three-other-than allowance at a mile, which goes as race 7. Bully Hayes, who finished fifth in the San Pasqual and San Antonio handicaps in his last two starts, drops in Thursday after chasing High Limit and Spellbinder.

To win the race Thursday, , who gave Willow O Wisp a battle last summer in the La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar. Willow O Wisp runs Saturday in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile.

Four others entered the race, which has an optional claiming price of $80,000. They are Follow the Rainbow, who finished third behind Kilroe starter Hendrix last out; Actxecutive, who set the pace in the Strub before High Limit ran him into the ground; High Volt Jolt, runner-up to Big Cap entrant Magnum; and , who finished seventh in the San Antonio.

With a $63,000 purse, race 7 is the richest on the card. El Roblar has not raced since the Del Mar Derby on Sept. 5. Winner of the Oceanside Stakes in July, El Roblar will be ridden by Alex Solis. The shift is interesting, because Solis rode Bully Hayes in all nine of his starts.

Pat Valenzuela rides Bully Hayes, trained by Bruce Headley. Headley was the first trainer for El Roblar, who was transferred to Richard Mandella after his first start. Headley said that when Bully Hayes meets El Roblar, "it's not a grudge, but it does have sentimental value."

Beyond the Grade 1's, the Saturday card includes the Grade 2 Santa Catalina Stakes for 3-year-olds, in which Brother Derek faces recent impressive maiden winners Point of Impact and Mister Triester.

How good are those two? Tune in Thursday.

, runner-up to Mister Triester on Feb. 3, is part of a strong two-horse entry in race 2. He is coupled with Simon Pure, a runner-up in his sprint debut. To win the mile race, the entry must beat Sadler's Trick, who finished third behind Santa Catalina probable Point of Impact.

Strong efforts by Royal Legacy and Sadler's Trick would flatter the form of Mister Triester and Point of Impact. Four of the eight starters in the maiden race Thursday are nominated to the Triple Crown - Royal Legacy, Simon Pure, Sadler's Trick, and Film Fortune.