03/31/2010 11:00PM

Fluke could get nice setup


ARCADIA, Calif. - Trainer Humberto Ascanio took a look at jockey Garrett Gomez before at Santa Anita last month and groaned.

"Why are you in here?" Ascanio said.

Ascanio knew all about Gomez's mount, Proviso, whom he once trained. Proviso went on to beat the Ascanio-trained Fluke by a nose in the Kilroe.

In Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Arcadia Handicap, Proviso is not in the field. Fluke is, and this time Gomez's mount, Compari, could help Fluke win.

Compari is likely to set the pace in the Arcadia, a one-mile race on turf, and that could give Fluke an ideal trip just behind the leader. At least that's the perfect scenario for Ascanio, who trained Fluke to a win in the Grade 1 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park last fall. Fluke made his first start of 2010 in the Kilroe, and Ascanio said he expects another banner performance Saturday.

"I think the horse came out of the race in good shape," Ascanio said. "He hasn't missed a meal."

Fluke led for most of the race in the Kilroe, although Ascanio wanted him to come from off the pace.

"We were supposed to be in the middle of the pack," Ascanio said.

The Arcadia has drawn a field of seven, including four who have won stakes in the last year: Battle of Hastings, Blue Chagall, Compari, and Fluke. Aitcho, Golden Balls, and Swift Winds are the other starters and are considered outsiders.

Compari is making his graded stakes debut after winning the Sensational Star and Crystal Water handicaps for statebreds on turf at this meeting. A winner of five consecutive races, three in stakes, Compari has been on or near the lead in all of his starts.

Blue Chagall won the restricted Lure Stakes last fall but was a disappointment in the Citation, finishing last of eight as the 2-1 favorite. Trained by Julio Canani, he was fourth behind Proviso in the Kilroe Mile in his first start of 2010.

Battle of Hastings won four stakes last year, including the Grade 2 Colonial Turf Cup and Grade 2 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs in Virginia. Trained by Jeff Mullins, Battle of Hastings has lost his last four starts. He was third behind Proviso and Fluke in the Kilroe Mile, his first start since a second to The Usual Q.T. in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby last fall. He was beaten a head in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby here last fall.

Mullins and owner Michael House considered starting Battle of Hastings in the Muniz Handicap at Fair Grounds last month but stayed in Southern California and took advantage of an additional week between the Kilroe and the Arcadia. Mullins said he was impressed with Battle of Hastings's comeback in the Kilroe and hopes for the same Saturday.

"When a horse runs that big of a race, you hope they don't regress in their next race back," Mullins said.