03/28/2002 12:00AM

Good field for Kalookan's try vs. boys

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The timing is ideal for Kalookan Queen to face males in Saturday's $200,000 Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita.

With top California sprinters Caller One, Echo Eddie, and Men's Exclusive recovering from a Dubai race last week, Snow Ridge and Crafty C.T. waiting for stakes later in the spring, and Kona Gold returning from a rest, the Grade 2 Potrero Grande has drawn a weaker field than in recent years.

Trainer Bruce Headley, who trains Kalookan Queen, has made the Potrero Grande an annual payday in recent years. Headley has won three of the last four runnings, scoring with Son of a Pistol in 1998 and Kona Gold in the last two years. (Big Jag won the 1999 running.)

Kalookan Queen is the lone Grade 1 winner among the eight entrants for the Potrero Grande, which is run over 6 1/2 furlongs. She scored a half-length win in the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap against fillies and mares here on Jan. 26, but returned to finish second as the heavy favorite against Above Perfection in the Grade 3 Las Flores Handicap here on Feb. 23.

"The ground broke out from under her," Headley said, explaining the loss. "Against a horse like Above Perfection, you can't give her three-quarters of a length."

No filly or mare has won the Potrero Grande, although Very Subtle, the winner of the 1987 Breeders' Cup Sprint, finished second to Gulch in 1988. Very Subtle was a front-runner and Kalookan Queen is expected to use the same tactics.

"She could lay second," Headley said. "She's sharp, ready to run, and loves Santa Anita. I didn't look anywhere else for a race."

Kalookan Queen may not have many challengers for the early lead. Her entrymate, Rapidough, the winner of a $50,000 claimer on Feb. 15, will be close along with Pie n Burger, who has shown speed in both sprints and routes at this meeting.

Closers such as Ceeband, the winner of the California Cup Sprint last fall, and Romanzo, who has won two consecutive allowance races on turf this year, will need a fast pace to help their chances.

Romanzo finished last of four in the 2001 Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap at a time when he was battling soundness problems, trainer Dean Greenman said.

"Since we took the chips out, he's been much sounder," Greenman said. "There is a lot of speed in there, so it should set up for a stalker. That's where I'll be."

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