07/19/2007 12:00AM

Buzzards Bay will gun it from the gate


DEL MAR, Calif. - Buzzards Bay will waste no time making an impression on his eight rivals in Saturday's $300,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar.

"We'll be one of the front-runners," trainer Ron Ellis said.

Buzzards Bay may prove tough to catch. The 5-year-old horse won the Grade 2 Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park on June 2 in his last start, but was not at his best, Ellis said.

"He kind of gutted it out," Ellis said. "I thought he should have been more impressive than that."

Buzzards Bay was subsequently found to have sore stifles, which ended his chances of starting in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup in June. Instead, Ellis and owner Gary Broad have targeted the $1omillion Pacific Classic on Aug. 19 as Buzzards Bay's big-race goal for Del Mar.

"He's always had issues with his stifles," Ellis said. "They bother him every once in a while. The Gold Cup wasn't a do-or-die race for us."

Ellis and Broad are hoping that Buzzards Bay can make the Breeders' Cup Classic at Monmouth Park in late October. To do so, Buzzards Bay should win a race such as the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap, which is run at 1 1/16 miles.

"It's a good time to start picking it up," Ellis said. "I'm hoping that he can win and that he can run well. When he puts it all together on his best day, he's a tough horse."

A winner of 6 of 18 starts and $1,325,507, Buzzards Bay shares top weight of 120 pounds with Arson Squad. Trained by Bruce Headley, Arson Squad has not started since winning the Grade 2 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds at Santa Anita in February. A foot abscess kept Arson Squad from starting in the $1omillion Santa Anita Handicap in March.

"I thought he'd win the Santa Anita Handicap if he hadn't hurt his foot," Headley said. "He's an exceptional horse."

Asked if the foot is a concern, Headley replied, "That was a long time ago."

The field includes two other 2007 stakes winners - Awesome Gem (Grade 2 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes) and Raise the Bluff (Santana Mile Handicap) - as well as Sun Boat, second to Buzzards Bay in the Californian.

Awesome Gem won an optional claimer at Hollywood Park in June and will be rallying from off the pace in the San Diego.

"He had a little bit left in the tank" after that race, trainer Craig Dollase said. "We'll sit back and make one run."