01/14/2010 12:00AM

Easterners start out ice-cold

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Benoit & Associates
Blind Luck, the preeminent 3-year-old filly in town, is bound to be a heavy favorite in the Las Virgenes.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The handicapping notebook fills up fast at Santa Anita, with stuff like this . . .

* It was good news that several East Coast stables shipped west for winter at Santa Anita. Guys like Todd Pletcher, Graham Motion, Christophe Clemente, Bill Mott, and Ken McPeek figured to "class up" the program. So who would have predicted that through Wednesday those five guys would be a collective 0 for 24? The drought won't last.

* Simple question: Can any 3-year-old filly warm up Blind Luck? The answer, still, is no. Crisp won a nice little Grade 3 last week in just her third start, but she is not in the same league as Blind Luck. They meet Feb. 6 in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes, a race Blind Luck should crush. I just touted the odds-on favorite. You are welcome.

* Remember last year's Las Virgenes? It was Stardom Bound's last good race. She later eked out a Grade 1 victory in the Santa Anita Oaks before she stalled, and her recent comeback was poor. Stardom Bound runs Sunday in the Grade 2 El Encino, and yes, she is 4 for 4 at Santa Anita. But current form supersedes year-old form, and it has been forever (11 months) since Stardom Bound ran a good race. Good luck.

* By the way, the El Encino will not include the 4-year-old filly who might turn out best of the bunch. Witty, unbeaten after three starts last spring including the Grade 3 Railbird at Hollywood Park, has resumed training for Richard Mandella. A half-sister to Well Armed, she has not started since May, but recent works have been terrific. Stay tuned.

* The Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes on Sunday has gone cheap. The purse for the middle leg of the once-prestigious Strub series is "$75,000 guaranteed, and an additional $75,000 from the Breeders' Cup fund for Cup nominees only." No thanks - non-nominated M One Rifle and Acclamation skipped it. Too bad, the San Fernando used to be a big race.

* The San Fernando reminds of the late Bobby Frankel, who won the race just once, in 1993. What a blowout it was. The Frankel-trained Bertrando splashed to a nine-length sloppy-track victory in the San Fernando, and then three weeks later lost the Strub at 30 cents on the dollar. That is another story.

* Del Mar Derby winner Rendezvous switches surfaces Saturday for the San Fernando, and if he runs as well as he trains on Pro-Ride, he can win. But he will have to catch the Lone Star Derby's blowout winner Mythical Power, who has a comeback prep race under his belt and will get first run against a field that came up short on pace.

* The knock on Mythical Power is his up-front running style is not an advantage going two turns on Pro-Ride. And heaven help the horse who makes the lead. Only one of the 30 main-track route races this winter (through Wednesday) was won by the pacesetter.

* The anti-speed Pro-Ride bias usually tempers by weekend. Hope so for the sake of Conveyance. The 3-year-old stretches out Saturday following two runaway sprints, and will try to wire the one-mile San Rafael (race 3). On dirt, he would be a cinch. It is a different story on this brand of synthetic.

* Wednesday is usually the first day of the racing week, and after dark-day renovation the main track swallowed speed again on Jan. 13. That's two successive Wednesdays that the track was blatantly anti-speed. Next week racing resumes on Thursday, by which time five inches of rain is expected. Let's just hope the surface drains.

* It was good to see Christian Santiago-Reyes, a finalist for an Eclipse Award as 2009's outstanding apprentice, finally win his second race (43 mounts) of the meet Wednesday. The rider is mired in his worst slump since he began in Southern California last summer. The race-3 victory was his first of 2010. Santiago-Reyes had more success last summer and fall than now.

* Martin Pedroza is a better jockey than he showed Wednesday in race 1. But don't take this handicapper's word. . Pedroza put away his whip at the sixteenth pole, hand-rode favorite Red Door Drive to the wire, and got nailed by Chantal Sutherland on The Town Lady. Pretty sure Pedroza is better than that.

* This turf writer was wrong with the suggestion turf horse Blue Chagall might have an impact in the handicap division if switched to Pro-Ride, almost as wrong as trainer Julio Canani for not entering Blue Chagall last weekend in the Grade 2 San Pasqual.

"There's a horse that can't lose," Canani said, referring to Furthest Land. Bet to odds-on, he finished last.

* It is still hard to believe Jan. 10 first-time starter Pink Blossom went the opening quarter in 21.15 seconds and opening half in 44.09, the fastest half-mile of a seven-furlong race at Santa Anita in two years. Pink Blossom wired the field, setting fractions that are still hard to believe. How fast was the track? Despite the 1:21.63 final time, her Beyer Speed Figure was 79.

* Talk about timely coincidence. Tavern won first out for trainer Bob Hess Jr. and owner-breeder Amy Hess on Jan. 8, 2009. Exactly one year later on Jan. 8, 2010, Tavern's full brother Arkham Asylum won his debut for Mr. and Mrs. Hess. The maiden-claiming winners were sired by Gotham City, and produced by Effectively Wild. She currently is in foal to D'wildcat.

* What do bargain stallions One Man Army and Piccolo have in common? They sired the two fastest horses to run early in the winter meet. M One Rifle, by One Man Army, won the Malibu with a 102 Beyer, the fastest sprint. St Trinians, by Piccolo, won the Paseana with a 101 Beyer, the fastest route.

* A couple of interesting Europeans make U.S. debuts Saturday. At the right price, they are worth backing. Poetic License, a maiden half-sister to Grade 1 sprinter Avanzado, runs in race 2. Rosey de Megeve, a listed-stakes-placed import, runs in race 8. Can we get 9-1 on either one?

* Trainer Jonathan Nance won six of the seven races in which he started horses Wednesday at Portland Meadows. The highest payoff was $8.80. Apparently Nance starts a lot of chalk. Despite the Wednesday six-bagger and a 19-percent win rate, Nance-trained runners are undervalued at Portland Meadows, where they have produced a return of just $1.19 for each $2 win bet.