03/03/2011 2:48PM

Caracortado should get sufficient pace to set up closing kick in Kilroe


ARCADIA, Calif. – Caracortado, who will be after his first Grade 1 win in Saturday’s $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita, has changed in the last year.

A 4-year-old gelding once eager to be part of the early running of a race, Caracortado now races as a closer.

“Now he gets to the head of the lane, changes leads and kicks,” trainer and co-owner Mike Machowsky said. “He takes control. It’s nice to see when a horse gets it.”

Of course, the new style can give Machowsky fits. Caracortado is vulnerable to a troubled trip when weaving his way through or around a field under jockey Joe Talamo.

“I’ll probably spin away from the TV a couple of times in the first half-mile,” Machowsky said. “I’ll be saying, ‘Put him in a good spot, Joe.’ ”

Caracortado will be after his second stakes win of the year in the Kilroe Mile on turf. On Jan. 29, he won the richest race of his career, and third stakes, in the $300,000 Sunshine Million Turf for California-breds and Florida-breds. In that race over 1 1/8 miles, Caracortado closed from sixth in a field of eight to win by a half-length over the multiple Grade 1 winner The Usual Q.T.

In the Kilroe Mile, Caracortado will be favored in his fourth career appearance in a Grade 1. Last year, he was fourth in the Santa Anita Derby, seventh in the Preakness Stakes, and a troubled third in the Malibu Stakes in December. The Kilroe will be his third start on turf, a surface over which he has yet to lose.

There should be sufficient pace in the Kilroe to help Caracortado’s late kick. Square Eddie set a track record for 6 1/2 furlongs on Jan. 14 by disputing the early lead. Times Gone By tends to run near the front. Traffic is a big concern for Machowsky.

“The only thing is to make sure he doesn’t get stopped behind tiring horses,” he said. “He’s got the turn of foot where he can get himself out of a jam.”

Jeranimo, the winner of the Grade 2 San Gabriel Stakes on Dec. 27, and Fluke, who won the Grade 3 Thunder Road Handicap on Feb. 5, are the biggest threats to Caracortado. The stakes winners Acclamation, Gallant Son, Liberian Freighter, and Lieve also start.

Acclamation won the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood Park last June and has not started since a sixth in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar last July.

Jeranimo was fourth as the 7-5 favorite in the Sunshine Millions Turf, a race that trainer Mike Pender dismisses. “I don’t think he was himself in the Sunshine Millions,” Pender said. “He had a high white count.”

Since then, the 4-year-old Jeranimo has rebounded. “He’s almost climbing out of his skin,” Pender said

Still, Pender knows that Caracortado is the horse to beat. Asked on Thursday if Jeranimo can beat Caracortado, Pender said, “Let’s let the horse answer that.”

Fluke will be ridden by leading jockey Rafael Bejarano, who replaces Talamo. The rider switch is not a concern to trainer Humberto Ascanio. “I’m in a good spot,” Ascanio said. “I’ve got Bejarano and I’m happy with Rafael.

Fluke has been first or second in his last seven starts. “I can’t ask for more,” Ascanio said. “He’s doing really good from the last race.”