01/30/2006 1:00AM

Fantastic Spain in off layoff


ARCADIA, Calif. - Fantastic Spain has had more trainers than wins in his four-season career.

A 6-year-old, won his debut in his lone start for trainer Richard Mandella in June 2003 and had one victory in six starts for trainer Kristin Mulhall in 2004 and 2005.

Wednesday at Santa Anita, Fantastic Spain returns from a nine-month layoff and makes his first start for trainer Neil Drysdale.

A half-brother to Spain, a winner of $3.5 million and the 2000 Breeders' Cup Distaff, Fantastic Spain is a top contender in a $56,000 optional claimer at 1 1/4 miles on turf, a race that drew six entrants.

Owned by David Bienstock and Chuck Winner, Fantastic Spain finished second to Always First in an allowance race at 1 1/4 miles on turf last April. Always First later won the Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Fantastic Spain has made one start in a stakes, finishing third in the Stanford Breeders' Cup Handicap at Bay Meadows last March.

Fantastic Spain, who breezed a half-mile on turf in 51 seconds on Sunday, is best as a stalker. Fantastic Spain was entered in a one-mile allowance race on Jan. 21 but did not draw into the field. Drysdale said he thinks Wednesday's race may be a better spot.

"I would say he's more adaptable going further," Drysdale said.

The field lacks a clear front-runner, although Shimby may inherit the role.

Trained by Ron McAnally, the Chilean-bred Shimby had made one start in this country, finishing second in an allowance race here on Dec. 31. In Chile, he won three turf stakes at distances from a mile to 1 1/4 miles.

Two horses are coming off wins - Misto Quente and Sigfreto.

won an allowance race at Belmont Park in September. Trained by Bobby Frankel, Misto Quente has not been worse than third in five starts.

won an optional claimer at 1 1/4 miles on turf here on Jan. 7, his second win in three starts.

Balustrade and Noble Masterpiece are the other starters, and both ran in stakes in their last starts.

Balustrade won the Hasta La Vista Handicap at 1 7/8 miles on turf at Turf Paradise last May and finished sixth in the Escondido Handicap at Del Mar in August, his most recent appearance.

Noble Masterpiece was second in the Tanforan Handicap at Golden Gate Fields in October, but struggled at Calder in December, finishing ninth in the Tropical Turf Handicap and 10th in the W.L. McKnight Handicap.