02/05/2010 1:00AM

Crown of Thorns too sore to train


Crown of Thorns, second by a nose in the Breeders' Cup Sprint here last November, is sore and not in serious training, trainer Richard Mandella said.

Crown of Thorns was diagnosed with a severe throat ulcer after the BC Sprint, which Mandella said would keep the 5-year-old out of action until the spring. Crown of Thorns resumed jogging recently, but Mandella said the horse was "bruised up."

"He had some coming-back pains," he said. "It was nothing serious. He's not going anywhere."

Mandella said he has no specific plans for Crown of Thorns, who has won 2 of 6 starts and $577,080.

Talamo has strong rooting interest

Jockey Joe Talamo has Sunday thoroughly planned.

"Hopefully, we'll win four or five and then go to a Super Bowl party," he said.

There is no doubt about Talamo's allegiance for the game. The New Orleans native is not only a lifelong Saints fan, but had a chance in September to visit the team's practice facility and visit with coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees.

"They've made it there and now it's a matter of getting lucky," Talamo said. "I think this is the year. I think they can win. It's like horse racing. It's all about momentum."

Early first post for Sunday

Santa Anita will run a nine-race program beginning at 11 a.m. Pacific on Sunday. Live racing is scheduled to end minutes before Super Bowl kickoff at 3:25 p.m.

The Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap, a key prep to the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 6, is the feature race. The undercard includes the $40,000 Super Bowl Party, a starter handicap over a mile on turf for horses that have started for a claiming price of $32,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2009.

Mandella is hoping the starter handicap stays on turf during a weekend that could include wet weather. Mandella starts Skellytown, a 7-year-old gelding who won a $32,000 claimer on Jan. 16.

"I don't know if I'd run if it comes off the turf," Mandella said. "He seems to prefer turf."

Skellytown made six starts last year for Mandella and trainer Jedd Josephson in Northern California, the gelding's most productive year.

Skellytown is one of four horses in the starter handicap with a win in their last start. Kris Silver won a $40,000 claimer on turf at Hollywood Park in December. Diferentkindagreat won an optional claimer on the main track here last month, and Kalookan Storm won an allowance race on turf here on Dec. 26.

Diferentkindagreat was scratched from Saturday's Strub Stakes in favor of the starter handicap. Trainer Dan Hendricks said he would prefer that Sunday's race be switched to the main track.

* British apprentice jockey Simon Pearce makes his California debut in Sunday's first race aboard Candy Arches. Pearce, 23, is in the final month of a three-month stay in California. He has worked primarily as an exercise rider for Ben Cecil but plans to ride races in coming weeks.