01/16/2008 12:00AM

Fitz Flag back in action

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ARCADIA, Calif. - With just 19 career starts, Fitz Flag, 8, has never been a durable horse. He made only three starts in 2006 and six last year.

Despite his infrequent appearances, Fitz Flag retains the ability to race at a high level, which is why trainer Juan Reviriego is optimistic that the Argentine-bred horse can be effective this year in major stakes for turf marathoners.

Right now, though, Reviriego is not ready to ask Fitz Flag to race at that level. This week, Reviriego has chosen to start Fitz Flag in an optional claimer at 1 1/8 miles on turf at Santa Anita on Friday and bypass Saturday's $150,000 San Marcos Stakes at 1 1/4 miles.

Reviriego said the recent wet weather in California, and the subsequent disruption to main-track training at Santa Anita, has cost Fitz Flag valuable time.

"I couldn't train him properly for a handicap," Reviriego said. "Maybe after this race, I'll point him for another handicap."

Owned by El Faruk Stable, Fitz Flag is seeking his first win since an optional claimer at Turf Paradise in December 2006. He was winless in six starts last year, but finished third in the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Handicap here in April and was second in the Grade 2 Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park in July. The Sunset Handicap was his final start of 2007.

"He had a couple of problems and now he's all right," Reviriego said.

In Friday's race, Fitz Flag is part of a seven-horse field. He is reliant on a quick pace, which will be possible if Sweet Roberto takes his customary position near the front.

"To win, it's very tough all the time," Reviriego said.

Fitz Flag is one of three runners coming off lengthy layoffs. Rathor, a 6-year-old horse, makes his first start since finishing a fast-closing fifth in the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland last April.

Rathor is trained by Bobby Frankel, who also starts Porfido, the third-place finisher of the Tanforan Stakes at Golden Gate Fields in November. Tissy Fit, the winner of the Tanforan, is the only member of Friday's field with a stakes win in the last year.

Baby First has not started since finishing third in a Group 2 race in Paris in October 2006.