04/08/2002 11:00PM

First a stakes win, now a tag

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Less than two months after winning the Grade 3 Baldwin and establishing himself as California's leading 3-year-old turf sprinter, Shuffling Kid is eligible to be claimed for $80,000 in Thursday's third race at Santa Anita.

The maneuver is unusual but appropriate, because the entire card is indeed peculiar. Two-furlong races for 2-year-olds comprise the first daily double on races 1 and 2; turf sprints on the hillside course go as races 3 and 5; and a competitive first-level allowance at 10 furlongs on grass is the seventh-race feature.

Shuffling Kid always was destined for the claiming ranks. The surprise is it happened so soon. A gelding imported from England, Shuffling Kid won both starts this meet on the hillside turf course for trainer Mike Machowsky, was overmatched in a main-track stakes, and now shows up in a one-other-than allowance/optional claimer.

Pat Valenzuela rides front-runner Shuffling Kid, whose best race is good enough. Two other horses, Regiment and Kith, enter with angles to suggest an upset is possible. Regiment was a well-regarded 2-year-old last summer, but he had a problem. "His shins were killing him, so I turned him out," trainer Bob Baffert said.

The rest did him good. Regiment won his March 17 comeback, trained super since the maiden win, and was sired by Outflanker, a son of Danzig. David Flores rides. Baffert held Regiment out of a first-level allowance Saturday to avoid the heavy favorite Raven Power. If Regiment handles grass and improves, he could spring an upset.

Few trainers have been more proficient in downhill sprints this meet than Ian Jory. Six of Jory's eight wins this meet have been on the hill, and he will try to add to the total when Kith shortens from a mile. The payoff range of Jory's six turf-sprint winners is $11.20 to $25.80.

Eyes Wide Open will be favored in the seventh, after an improved third-place finish March 30 in his second start in the United States. Eyes Wide Open's best races in Europe were at the 1 1/4-mile distance he tries Thursday.

Mont Saint Michel makes his U.S. debut for trainer Bobby Frankel after winning 1 of 9 in Chile. Frankel broke a minor slump Sunday when Rolly Polly won the Las Cienegas Stakes. It was was Frankel's first win since March 24 and ended a 13-race drought.

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