03/04/2008 12:00AM

Carrilero has a pace problem


ARCADIA, Calif. - Carrilero probably is the best closer in the race 7 feature Thursday at Santa Anita, but so what? There is no early speed in the 6 1/2-furlong race.

Carrilero drops in class Thursday, from a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes into a second-level allowance, but trainer Mike Puype wishes there was pace for him to run at.

"The problem is there's no real front-runner, it's a race full of stalkers," he said.

Eight older horses entered the second-level allowance race, including likely favorite Street Boss, turf-to-dirt Vespucci, and sharp claimer Paul's Hope. None has recently showed speed, which means Carrilero must rally from behind a tepid pace.

He might win anyway.

"He's almost undefeated sprinting, and he's ready to run," Puype said. The race will be his first since Dec. 26 and first since Gary Tanaka purchased him from Bob Bone and Desperado Stables. Imported from Argentina after winning his debut, Carrilero has won 2 of 5, including two wins and a second in the Malibu in his three sprints.

For Carrilero, the race Thursday is designed as a prep for the Grade 2, seven-furlong Commonwealth on April 12 at Keeneland.

"The seven-eighths will fit him perfectly," Puype said.

Jose Valdivia rides Carrilero, whose main rival is not exactly a front-runner, but might have slightly more speed.

Street Boss overcame a poor start to win his debut at Del Mar, and then stalled in three races during the fall Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita. Trainer Bruce Headley gave him a 10-week freshening; Street Boss returned Jan. 17 with a powerful five-length win.

Street Boss raced over his eligibility conditions Feb. 13 in a third-level allowance, and missed by neck. He returns Thursday as the most likely winner under resurgent jockey Alex Solis, who ranks sixth in the standings. Solis has been most effective in main-track sprints, where he has won with 16 of his last 52 mounts. Overall this meet, Solis has won 23 races from 148 mounts.

Paul's Hope won his last two against softer while pressing slow fractions. The gelding figures for a similar pressing trip Thursday. Other starters include Storm Machine, Cigar Pal, Temecula Creek, and Save. A former front-runner, Save failed to produced his usual speed Feb. 17 when he returned from a 13-month layoff.

* In race 2, European import Ventura makes her U.S. debut for trainer Bobby Frankel in a third-level allowance turf sprint for fillies and mares.