04/02/2009 12:00AM

Desert Code tries to ration his speed


ARCADIA, Calif. - The speed that carried Desert Code to victory in the 6 1/2-furlong Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint last October may be his undoing in the $150,000 Arcadia Handicap at Santa Anita on Saturday.

The Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap is run at a mile on turf, and trainer David Hofmans is worried that Desert Code's quickness could be a hindrance in a longer race.

"I don't think it's the distance," he said. "It will depend on the pace. I don't know if we can get him to slow down."

Owned by Tarabilla Farms, Desert Code has won his last two starts. A 5-year-old, Desert Code won the Grade 3 Daytona Handicap at about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course on Feb. 15, his first start since the BC Turf Sprint.

The last time Desert Code ran around two turns, he finished second in the Grade 3 Berkeley Stakes on the main track at Golden Gate Fields last May, leading to early stretch. Desert Code's last win around two turns came in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles in June 2007. He has run primarily in sprints since the fall of 2007.

A win on Saturday could lead to a series of longer races for Desert Code this summer.

"If he looks strong and effective, we'll go on," Hofmans said.

Desert Code, the 121-pound topweight in the Arcadia, will be near the front in a field of nine. Aaron Gryder, who was aboard for the Daytona, retains the mount. The key to success for Desert Code is how much pressure he faces early from other speed-oriented runners such as the longshot Holy Thunder or Sky Cape, a three-time stakes winner last year.

"Maybe we can get him to relax," Hofmans said.

There are two leading challengers who are threats from off the pace - Dixie Chatter and Madeo.

Dixie Chatter won a division of the restricted Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar last July, but is winless in four subsequent starts, all in graded stakes. He was third, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile here last month.

Jockey Tyler Baze rode Dixie Chatter in the Kilroe, where he led in the final furlong before being caught. Baze may hold up Dixie Chatter for a later run, trainer Richard Mandella said.

"I'll have him wait a little longer if he can," he said.

There are three other runners from the Grade 1 Kilroe in the Arcadia - Global Hunter (who finished fourth), Mr Napper Tandy (sixth), and Becrux (seventh).

Madeo, who drew the rail, is a major threat to Desert Code. The winner of the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby last August, Madeo was a comfortable winner of a one-mile allowance race on turf by two lengths on March 12.

"He won that allowance race very nicely," trainer John Shirreffs said. "He's stepping up in class a little bit."

The victory was a relief to Shirreffs and owners Jerry and Ann Moss. Madeo was pulled up on the backstretch of the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes on the main track in January. Madeo was not injured in the race, but the incident remains in the back of Shirreffs's mind.

"It's something that did occur and it's always there," he said.