Updated on 09/17/2011 10:00AM

Crafty C.T. can get his Grade 1

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The good looks of a racehorse do not guarantee victory, but when looks are combined with credentials as imposing as those of Crafty C.T., good things often follow.

Seven older horses will race seven furlongs Sunday in the Grade 1 San Carlos Handicap at Santa Anita, and Crafty C.T. merits standout status against top-class late-runners Aldebaran and Grey Memo, front-runners Total Limit and Roman Dancer, and longshots Mellow Fellow and Shah Jehan. It is only March, the first start of the year for Crafty C.T., and a perfect time to erase a past-performance void.

"This isn't the height of the season by any means, but it is an important race because it's a Grade 1," trainer Howard Zucker said. "I'd like to get the monkey off my back." Crafty C.T. has won 4 of his 13 races and earned $724,845, but he is winless in five Grade 1 attempts, with two seconds and three thirds.

The omission should be corrected Sunday. Crafty C.T. has trained smartly for his first start since a troubled third-place finish Nov. 30 in the Cigar Mile, and his glowing physical appearance supports his sharp works. Crafty C.T., a chestnut by Crafty Prospector, has changed from a light-bodied 3-year-old to a robust 5-year-old. His coat is dappled, he was kicking his heels and prancing around the paddock while schooling on Friday, and he enters the San Carlos ready to fire.

"I'd like to have a clean trip, just so he can show people how good he really is," Zucker said, adding, "everybody kind of knows already." Crafty C.T. had trouble on the turn in the Cigar Mile, and was beaten nearly six lengths by Congaree. In the Breeders' Cup Sprint, Crafty C.T. raced wide, finished well, and came up short by a length.

A pace-presser who typically earns Beyer Speed Figures in the 110-range - good enough to win the San Carlos - Crafty C.T. will break from post 2 under Pat Valenzuela. The post is not ideal, but Crafty C.T. possesses enough tactical speed to establish position and dodge a potential duel with likely pacesetter Total Limit.

Aldebaran finished in front of Crafty C.T. in both their meetings last year. The late-running Aldebaran's rally typically falls short - he has been second in six consecutive sprints. Trained by Bobby Frankel, Aldebaran has won three races and earned $628,561 from 17 starts.

Total Limit has won 3 of his 5 races for trainer Gary Mandella. Victor Espinoza rides Total Limit for the first time, as regular rider Laffit Pincay sticks with Bill Spawr-trained Mellow Fellow.

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