03/02/2006 12:00AM

Buckland Manor horse for course


NEW YORK - In what is unquestionably the biggest day of racing so far this year, Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park present cards on Saturday that are filled with important stakes events.

It's Big Cap Day at Santa Anita, with the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap topping four stakes. There are six stakes at Gulfstream, headed by the Fountain of Youth, which attracted highly regarded Derby aspirant First Samurai.

Frank E. Kilroe Mile

Cacique kept heady company in his first two campaigns in Europe, he is trained by Bobby Frankel, who wins at an incredible clip with horses making their first start in North America, and he is a full brother to Intercontinental, last year's champion turf female. This all means Cacique is likely to be the favorite. But there are too many other interesting alternatives in this race to take a short price.

I like Buckland Manor. Buckland Manor was beaten just a nose two starts back in the San Pasqual by High Limit, who came back to win the Strub so impressively that he will be the favorite in the Big Cap. Buckland Manor moves back to turf, a big plus. He is 4 for 9 in his career on the turf at Santa Anita, but is only 2 for 13 elsewhere. It is also worth remembering that Buckland Manor might have won this race last year over Leroidesanimaux, last year's champion turf male, were he not badly blocked in the stretch.

Milk It Mick is also appealing here. He was a strong second in the San Marcos in his U.S. debut, running his last six furlongs in that 1 1/4-mile race in slightly more than 1:09.60, and is more familiar with shorter distances like this. His last win, however, was 29 months ago.

Richter Scale BC Sprint Championship

Silver Train makes his first start since upsetting the Breeders' Cup Sprint last fall, and a strong workout line suggests he is ready to come back running. But one thing sticks out about Silver Train. The three best and fastest performances of his career all took place at Belmont Park, and he was a sharp disappointment in his two races at Gulfstream last winter. Silver Train is a much better horse now than he was a year ago. But the fact that there is a question concerning Silver Train's track preference, makes taking low odds on him a risk not worth the reward.

Mister Fotis is the pick - again. I liked him last time out in the Sunshine Millions Sprint, but he checked himself out of contention from between horses early, and was carried 10 wide into the stretch before finishing well in the late stages. Mister Fotis's win two starts back at Saturday's distance in the Kenny Noe Handicap was huge, and a rebound to that form would give Silver Train trouble even if he runs well.

Gulfstream Park Handicap

Funny Cide doesn't seem like the horse he used to be, Sun King's return was a disappointment, and Suave's first start this year was ugly. So, this is a good spot to take a fresh face, and that horse is It's No Joke.

It's No Joke comes into this off a terrific win over the track, in which he spread-eagled a good allowance field and ran fast enough to earn a Beyer Speed Figure of 107, which is as good if not better than what any of his opponents have achieved lately. The added distance should not be a problem. It's No Joke's first two wins came around two turns, and being lightly raced, he has a license to get even better.


Gulfstream Park: Richter Scale BC Sprint
3 and up, 7 furlongs

Approximate post: Eastern-3:25 p.m., Central-2:25 p.m., Mountain-1:25 p.m., Pacific-12:25 p.m.
Hallandale Beach, Fl., forecast: Sunny, 78¦

1Middle Earth89959112-1
2Mister Fotis931131006-1
3Silver Train114110971-1
4Wild Tale93937620-1
5Judiths Wild Rush9310110812-1
6Bull Ranch90967850-1
7Tour of the Cat671007950-1
8Universal Form105959315-1
9Sir Greeley100911002-1
10Pirate King99858720-1

Odds by Art Gropper

Gulfstream Park: Gulfstream Park Handicap
3 and up, 1 3/16 miles

Approximate post: Eastern-4:27 p.m., Central-3:27 p.m., Mountain-2:27 p.m., Pacific-1:27 p.m.
Hallandale Beach, Fl., forecast: Sunny, 78¦

1It's No Joke10766956-1
3Whos Crying Now9583998-1
5Funny Cide9782745-1
7Sun King95100953-1
8Andromeda's Hero9697996-1

Odds by Art Gropper

Santa Anita: Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap
4 and up, 1 mile, turf

Approximate post: Eastern-3:00 p.m., Central-2:00 p.m., Mountain-1:00 p.m., Pacific-12:00 p.m.
Arcadia, Ca., forecast: Partly cloudy, 63¦

1Buckland Manor6910110410-1
3Chinese Dragon94898120-1
9We All Love Aleyna86999430-1
11Willow O Wisp64n/a9920-1
12Drum Major100989415-1
13Milk It Mick105n/an/a6-1
14Senor Swinger10295976-1

Odds by Michael Hammersly