01/02/2006 1:00AM

With Distinction takes El Conejo


ARCADIA, Calif. - The sloppy track at Santa Anita on Monday sucked the left front shoe right off of With Distinction, but even with three shoes, he persevered to outlast Jungle Prince and Jet West in a driving, three-horse finish, in the Grade 3, $112,100 .

With Distinction ($11), who was racing between horses under Javier Santiago, beat favored Jungle Prince by a head, with Jet West, who rallied on the outside, another nose back in third in the field of 10. Kent Desormeaux, who rode Jet West, claimed foul against With Distinction, alleging that Santiago's whip hit Jet West in the stretch run, but the stewards said replays could not substantiate the claim.

Santiago was filling in for Victor Espinoza, who took off his mounts for the day. Both are represented by agent Tony Matos, so trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he "wanted to keep it in the family."

Slew's Prince darted to the lead on the sloppy surface and sped the first quarter in 21.02 seconds. He was up by four lengths after a half-mile in 43.67 seconds, but was beginning to tire as With Distinction, Jungle Prince, and Jet West closed in. They were three abreast at the wire, with With Distinction hitting the finish in 1:02.44 for 5 1/2 furlongs.

With Distinction did not appear to have been nicked by his shoe coming off. None of the nails were still in the foot, either.

"It's a little unsettling, to put a mud caulk on and then have nothing, but it doesn't look like it took away any of his foot," said a relieved Lukas.

With Distinction, 5, is by Storm Cat and is owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis. The El Conejo was his first stakes victory, but he was placed in stakes at Pimlico, Turfway Park, and Churchill Downs in 2005.

* Earlier Monday, Objective ($9.80) won the Hill Rise Stakes, a one-mile race for 3-year-olds that was moved from turf to dirt because of heavy rain. Garrett Gomez rode Objective to a 4 1/4-length victory in 1:35.18. Tom Roberts trains Objective for owner Jim McIngvale.