01/16/2003 12:00AM

First major test for Scrimshaw

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ARCADIA, Calif. - It is time to stretch out around two turns. It is time to step up into stakes company. It is time to see if a horse is capable of heading down the long road to the Kentucky Derby.

It is time for Scrimshaw.

Scrimshaw, an unbeaten Gulch colt who is the best of trainer D. Wayne Lukas's lot of 3-year-olds on the West Coast, will make his first start around two turns and his first start in a stakes race, when he takes his first dip into the Derby waters in Saturday's $150,000 Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita.

The Grade 2 Santa Catalina at 1 1/16 miles, the first important 3-year-old race at Santa Anita's winter meeting, has drawn a terrific field. The 3-year-old series culminates in the 1 1/8-mile, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 5, and includes intermediate stops such as the one-mile San Rafael Stakes on March 1 and the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe Stakes on March 16.

With colts such as Vindication and Kafwain, the one-two finishers in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, awaiting stakes later in the meet, and promising maiden winners such as Atswhatimtalknbout and Southern Image holding out for an allowance race next week, the Santa Catalina has drawn a two-time stakes winner in Crackup, a graded stakes-placed runner in Domestic Dispute, and several horses coming off eye-catching allowance victories, such as Our Bobby V. and Scrimshaw.

Scrimshaw has won both his starts sprinting at Santa Anita, including an allowance victory on the meet's opening day, Dec. 26, when he sped six furlongs in 1:08.35. Scrimshaw, however, does not act like a sprinter. He has sat off the pace and finished in both his starts, which gives Lukas confidence that Scrimshaw can handle longer distances.

"It's time to step up and try him at two turns," Lukas said at his Santa Anita barn Thursday morning. "I wanted to stretch him out earlier, in his second race, but I didn't want to run him at Hollywood Park, and the timing from his maiden win to the next two-turn allowance race wasn't good. It was a little more spacing than I wanted. So, I sprinted him twice. I'm anxious to run him two turns.

"I always thought he'd be better going two turns," Lukas added. "Of course, that remains to be seen."

Crackup, the winner of the California Cup Juvenile and Great State Challenge Juvenile in his last two starts, carries top weight of 120 pounds under the conditions of the race.

Domestic Dispute, who most recently crossed the wire third, before being moved to second via disqualification, in the Hollywood Futurity, is stuck in the far outside post in the field of 10. Like Crackup, he prefers to stalk from just off the pace, though Crackup drew far better, landing post 2.

Domestic Dispute is eligible for entry-level allowance conditions, but his trainer, Bob Baffert, was encouraged to remain in stakes races after Domestic Dispute's performance in the futurity.

"He seemed like he handled that all right," Baffert said. "He took back that day, but you needed to be closer to the pace that day."

Our Bobby V. was a runaway winner against maidens at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, and then crushed allowance runners at Hollywood Park, winning by a combined margin of 11 lengths. Like Scrimshaw, he will be stretching out around two turns for the first time. He is the quickest horse in the field, and is the one to catch.

Robledo also has won his last two starts. He beat allowance runners going 1 1/16 miles here on Dec. 28.

"It looks like there's plenty of pace in this race," said Robledo's trainer, Vladimir Cerin. "If he can come off the pace in this race like he did last time in a paceless race, he'll be okay."

Hell Cat, who finished third behind Robledo last time out, was thought out of the race on Sunday, when he walked off the track gingerly after a workout. Trainer Jack Carava said the colt was fine five minutes later at the barn, however. He passed a thorough veterinary exam, and has trained well since, Carava said.

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