01/26/2009 1:00AM

Ex-claimer square price in Palos Verdes


LEXINGTON, Ky. What happens when you run a $300,000 sprint stakes the day before you run a $150,000 sprint stakes at the same track?

The $300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint at Santa Anita, run on Saturday, initially attracted a field of 11 California-bred and Florida-bred horses. There were eight horses entered in the $150,000 Grade 2 Palos Verdes Handicap on Sunday at Santa Anita. But three of them were cross-entered in the Sunshine Millions Sprint, so as this is written on Friday morning, it remains to be seen how many horses will show up for each race. Even if the eight-horse Palos Verdes field remains intact, it will be an unusually soft field for a Grade 2 stakes.

The leading contender is Johnny Eves, but it is hard to gauge what type of performance he ll be ready to deliver. Rate him on his second-place finish in the California Cup Sprint three races ago, or his win in the Grade 3 Vernon O. Underwood at Hollywood two races ago, and he would clearly be the horse to beat. But the concern is that Johnny Eves finished last of four horses in the Grade 3 El Conejo in his most recent race. He lost by 17 1/4 lengths, and was 13 3/4 lengths behind the third finisher. Fans of Beyer Speed Figures might have a hard time deciding what to make of the pattern of a 100 Beyer in the California Cup, a 101 figure in the Underwood, and a 42 in the El Conejo.

If you want to play against Johnny Eves you ll want to take a look at the three horses in the Palos Verdes who are also entered in the Sunshine Millions Sprint. Check the scratches to see which race their connections have chosen.

Devoted Magic ran an eye-catching race when he rallied from ninth in a field of 10 and drew away powerfully to beat California-bred first-level allowance horses by 6 3/4 lengths last time. His 105 Beyer from that race would make him formidable if he can equal it or surpass it. But there are pace and class issues for Devoted Magic. He enjoyed a dream trip while staying far behind a red-hot 21.25, 43.62, 1:08.36 pace, with a 1:14.60 final time for 6 1/2 furlongs. While he was flying late, it should be noted that the leaders were stopping through a 24.74 quarter-mile after the swift half-mile split.

If a horse moving from California-bred allowance company to a Grade 2 stakes bothers class-oriented handicappers, they won t be happy to learn that Devoted Magic ran in a $10,000 nonwinners-of-two claiming race four starts ago. He won that race, repeated on the jump to open $32,000 claiming on the turf, then finished fifth at that same class level two races ago.

The good news for fans of Devoted Magic is that his fast allowance victory came one race after he was claimed for $32,000 by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Presumably Hollendorfer, an excellent horseman, was at least somewhat responsible for coaxing the huge effort from Devoted Magic, so another good performance would not be a surprise.

The other two horses cross-entered in the Sunshine Millions Sprint are less preferred. Machismo figures to be the early speed if he runs in the Palos Verdes, and would be a factor with a favorable trip if he runs his best race. Big Bad Leroybrown finished a close fifth in the Impressive Luck going 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill on the turf at Santa Anita in his comeback. He can make his presence felt if he improves second time back.

There is a lot to be said for consistency, and Talkin to Mom Roo looks good in the Palos Verdes for that reason. He shows 3 wins and 3 second-place finishes from his last 7 races. Although he has no stakes experience, he battled salty optional claiming fields in most of his recent races. His form was already good, but he improved following a claim for $40,000 by trainer Ted West four races ago. His Beyers, ranging from 96 through 107 in his last four races, are high enough to make him a prime contender. And his tactical speed makes a good trip likely from just off the pace. A square price is likely on the class raise.

Principle Secret shows back class from his 2-year-old and 3-year-old campaigns. He s 5 now, but he perked up a bit when he won a second-level allowance race last time, and he can move forward second time back from a seven-month vacation.

Six Pack Abs looked good beating optional claimers at Santa Anita three races ago, but he must regain that form to contend. Supporters of Halo Najib must hope that the combination of a layoff and the move to the Mike Mitchell barn will enable him to improve.

I ll go for the betting value and will pick Talkin to Mom Roo on top. Devoted Magic gets the benefit of the doubt as my second selection. The underlaid, but dangerous Johnny Eves is my third pick.