03/19/2009 12:00AM

Frankel calmly takes bad with good

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Only a month remains in the Santa Anita winter meet, and now is a good time to wrap up a few loose ends. With stuff like this:

* It's weird that trainer Bobby Frankel leads the meet with more than $1.6 million, yet winter was mildly disappointing. Ventura won, then got beat. Stardom Bound won, only barely. Zambezi Sun disappointed twice. Mast Track did not fire in his comeback. Modern Look lost at odds-on. Midships and Visit lost at low odds. Country Star and Jibboom retired.

No one is too worried.

"A lot of horses run bad, then all of the sudden they get good, and you forget about the bad ones," Frankel said. Besides, some who lost might become next-start winners such as Fluke, whose second U.S. start Wednesday was a super 1:33.63 turf mile, fastest of the meet. The only knock is he pulled hard setting the pace.

"That's him - that's why he got beat the first time," Frankel said.

Jockey Garrett Gomez let Fluke use his speed Wednesday, and the result was a front-running score that sets him up as a fresh miler targeting the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile on May 25 at Hollywood Park.

The Frankel-second-start-back angle applies Saturday with Midships in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap. He was rated and finished off the board in his return, but figures to show speed Saturday. "He's going to sit second," Frankel predicted. If he reproduces his third-place finish from the Hollywood Derby, if he stays 1 1/2 miles, and if he catches front-runner You Got Me Rocking, Midships could upset.

Modern Look is another Frankel trainee worth following in her second start back, on April 11 at Keeneland in the Jenny Wiley. She lost her U.S. debut March 13 as the odds-on favorite, but that was after missing two weeks of training and being too fresh.

"Garrett thinks she's something special," Frankel said, and he concurs.

Frankel shipped 18 horses this week from Southern California to Kentucky. Two others went to New York, including filly sprinter Moonshine Alice. A speedball, her style is wrong for synthetic. When she runs on dirt at Aqueduct, go to the window.

* If the California 3-year-olds are as good as they look, Bittel Road should win the Grade 2 Lane's End on Saturday at Turfway Park. Beaten only two lengths by Pioneerof the Nile on Feb. 7, Bittel Road has improved since that comeback. Gary Stevens worked him five furlongs March 8 and said Bittel Road "turned it around" in that work. Standout.

* At this time in the Derby prep season, it would be fashionable to knock top-ranked Friesan Fire. But there really isn't a fault. Each race is better than the one before, and this son of A.P. Indy drew off convincingly in the Louisiana Derby. He doesn't have to win the Kentucky Derby, but six weeks out, he looks awfully solid. Assuming, of course, he is more than "just" a Fair Grounds horse.

* It is easy to knock Stardom Bound and Pioneerof the Nile based on their last starts. Stardom Bound won by only a nose, while overcoming a wide trip. Pioneerof the Nile has won three straight graded stakes with a top Beyer of 95. "We're so far out," trainer Bob Baffert said, "do you want a 114 Beyer right now?" Well, no.

* Who will start favored in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby? Julio Canani, trainer of The Pamplemousse, said Pioneerof the Nile.

"It's him," Canani said. "He's the favorite."

Not likely. The right question is, how low will the odds be on favorite The Pamplemousse?

* Bill Spawr never wins with firsters, nor do offspring of Candy Ride win often first out. But take a look at Indy Ride in his debut in race 6 on Saturday. The 3-year-old has shown above-average ability in the morning, and could be a good one down the line.

* Bettors who loved Talkin to Mom Roo when he finished last in a Grade 2 sprint on the main track are obligated to chase him Saturday when he switches to turf for the $65,000 Joe Hernandez. Talkin to Mom Roo struggled with the surface last time, worked super on grass since then, and is a fast horse for trainer Ted H. West.

* The veteran West-trained win machine Brooker left town, found dirt, and returned to form. A 7-year-old gelding who had tailed off, he shipped from Santa Anita to Turf Paradise, and recently won two straight, including a $16,000 claimer by five. Brooker is 10 for 28 on dirt, 0 for 13 on synthetic.

* Yes, parts of the Animal Planet show "Jockeys" will make one cringe, including the re-created race calls (Trevor Denman's real stuff is so much better). But from someone who does not mind an occasional guilty pleasure, ultimately I give "Jockeys" a thumbs up.

* If the personable Jimmy "The Hat" Allard gets any more publicity (Animal Planet, two-part profile in Horseplayer Magazine), people might get the impression a career as a professional handicapper/horseplayer is actually legitimate. Imagine that.

* Alex Solis is the surprise jockey of winter. He saves ground, goes inside, and finishes. The Pamplemousse might be relatively easy, but Solis is making it happen in overnight races, too. Fourth in the standings with a 20 percent win rate and $2.65 return for each $2 win bet, Solis is solid. But one trip he may wish to do over is Starlarks. She makes her second U.S. start after being blocked the length of the lane in her U.S. debut. She runs Saturday in race 5, and can be singled in the first leg of the pick six.

* Bettors who had the daily double linking races 2-3 on March 14 were disappointed at the $147 payoff for $2. St Trinians won at $7.20, followed by Comeandcatchme at $140.

* From the department of past-post handicapping is this track-profile nugget. All of a sudden, speed is good at seven furlongs on Pro-Ride. The $21.80 upset by front-runner Miss Anziayan in race 3 Wednesday was the fourth gate-to-wire winner in the last seven main-track races at seven furlongs.

* What's in a name? Bagels N Bones was named for his owners, Steve Ustin and Daniel Capen. Ustin owns a bagel manufacturing and retail business, and Dr. Capen is an orthopedic surgeon. Bagels N Bones was scheduled to make her debut Thursday in race 5.