02/06/2010 12:00AM

Favorites gear up for bigger targets


ARCADIA, Calif. - Mast Track and Richard's Kid are headed in two completely different directions, both during and after the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap on Sunday at Santa Anita.

For Mast Track, a front-runner, and new trainer John Shirreffs, the objective in the 1 1/8-mile San Antonio is basic.

"This will be a big stepping-stone to get to the Santa Anita Handicap," Shirreffs said, referring to the $750,000 race March 6.

Richard's Kid, meanwhile, will back out early, come running late, then leave town.

"This is a prep for the Dubai World Cup," trainer Bob Baffert said. "I'd rather go a mile and a quarter than a mile and eighth. The important thing is for him to finish."

While Mast Track and Richard's Kid use the $150,000 San Antonio as takeoffs for higher objectives, the campaign for Furthest Land is less clear. Winner of the .

Trainer Michael Maker said he hopes the San Antonio leads to a start in Dubai in either the World Cup or the Godolphin Mile. First, Maker needs Furthest Land to re-establish his form. Maker said strategy may have contributed to his defeat in the San Pasqual.

"I think Garrett Gomez should have put a little distance of space between him and the field," Maker said.

Instead, Gomez rated Furthest Land off a dawdling pace (1:13.45). Maker said he believes Furthest Land was baffled.

"I think you get to a point where you can talk a horse out of a race," Maker said. "It's confusing. If that was it, who knows? But if he runs like we expect, we'll point to Dubai."

Julien Leparoux regains the mount.

Mast Track, Richard's Kid, and Furthest Land are the favorites in the San Antonio, which drew 11 entrants. Marginal contenders include Marsh Side, a turf specialist making his comeback; consistent Dakota Phone; and Nownownow, the .

The San Antonio is problematic for Mast Track, whose running style is not conducive to the nuances of the Santa Anita main track. Only three of the first 57 route races this winter on Pro-Ride were won by a horse that led at every call.

"That's the big thing - Santa Anita is not conducive [to speed]," Shirreffs said, adding wishfully, "then there are some days it is."

Mast Track is not necessarily a burner, but his weapon has always been tactical speed. He wired the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup in 2008, when he was owned and trained by the late Bobby Frankel. Mast Track was purchased in the fall by Frank Stronach. He won the in December for Stronach and longtime Frankel assistant Humberto Ascanio, then was transferred to Shirreffs.

"He's trained very well," Shirreffs said. "We're excited to see him run."

A good effort Sunday would give Shirreffs a one-two punch for the Big Cap - Mast Track on the lead and San Pasqual winner Neko Bay rallying from behind.

Mast Track has won six races and $922,822 from 20 starts. He will be ridden Sunday by Mike Smith. Richard's Kid also changes riders; Gomez will ride the Baffert-trained closer for the first time Sunday and also will ride him in Dubai.

"Garrett has to get to know him, get acquainted with him," Baffert said. "I think he should run well."

Richard's Kid scored a 24-1 upset in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic last summer at Del Mar in his third start after being purchased by owner Arnold Zetcher. Zetcher recently sold Richard's Kid, who runs Sunday for Zabeel Racing.

A six-time winner of $801,370 from 21 starts, Richard's Kid has not raced since finishing sixth in the , 5 1/2 lengths behind Zenyatta.

If the San Antonio unfolds as expected, Mast Track will set the pace. He will be followed by Furthest Land. The San Antonio outsiders include Quasicobra, an overmatched allowance-caliber gelding; Philatelist, winner of a synthetic-surface race Jan. 10 in England; Pick Six, a deep closer; comebacker Slew's Tiznow; and European sprinter Giganticus.

First post Sunday is 11 a.m.