03/09/2005 12:00AM

Courtly Jazz to get tested by tougher


ARCADIA, Calif. - The quick development of Courtly Jazz from maiden to two-race winner at the current Santa Anita meeting has given trainer Gary Mandella optimism that the 4-year-old gelding can become an important horse this year.

"I see him as a horse with a lot of potential," Mandella said.

will try for his third win of the meeting in a $56,000 optional claimer at a mile on Friday. Owned by Lazy Lane Stables, Courtly Jazz beat maidens in a six-furlong race on Dec. 30 and returned to win a 1 1/8-mile allowance race on Feb. 4.

The two-length victory in the latter race impressed Mandella.

"We're thrilled with what he's done so far," Mandella said. "Any horse that wins first time against winners is pretty impressive. Maidens often need a race or two to beat winners."

Friday, Courtly Jazz drew post 4 in a field of 10 that includes Capitano, Fonz's, and Tricky Taboo, all stakes placed.

Courtly Jazz will be ridden by Corey Nakatani, who was aboard for the Feb. 4 race. Courtly Jazz has shown the ability to lead or sit off the pace.

"It'll be a good test for him," Mandella said. "He'll probably have to improve three or four lengths. We'll learn how good he is."

Capitano was scratched from an allowance race at seven furlongs last Saturday.

"This is probably a better spot - it's a mile," trainer Ray Bell said. "I think seven-eighths would have worked, but he was down on the inside with some better sprinters."

Capitano was second in an allowance race on Feb. 12, finishing four lengths behind Grand Reward. Last Saturday, Grand Reward finished fourth in the Santa Anita Handicap.

has battled quarter cracks in the last year. He is winless in three starts dating back to an allowance race at Hollywood Park last May.

Fonz's will be a longshot. Trained by David La Croix, the 6-year-old gelding finished second in the Honor the Hero Stakes at Turf Paradise on Feb. 11.

The race marks the California debut of Tricky Taboo, who finished second in the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park last year, a top prep to the Kentucky Derby. Tricky Taboo was later 10th of 11 in the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby last April and seventh in a handicap at Ellis Park in August, his most recent start.

Owned by Oak Haven Farm, Tricky Taboo makes his first start for trainer Neil Drysdale on Friday. Tricky Taboo breaks from the rail.