Updated on 09/17/2011 9:46AM

Grammarian no longshot here

Benoit & Associates
Grammarian, here winning the Sunset Handicap at 29-1, is likely to face some pace pressure in the San Marcos.

ARCADIA, Calif. - In the last six months, many bettors have ignored Grammarian in major stakes in California, only to have their fingers burned each time.

Grammarian was a 29-1 winner of the Sunset Handicap last July, a 14-1 runner-up in the Hollywood Turf Cup in November, and a 9-1 winner in the San Gabriel Handicap here Dec. 29.

The same prices will not be available when Grammarian starts from the rail in Monday's $150,000 San Marcos Stakes at Santa Anita.

"I hope he's 9-1 again," said trainer Beau Greely, showing an overwhelming amount of optimism.

A price around half that, or maybe shorter, is more realistic on Grammarian in a competitive running of the Grade 2 San Marcos, run over 1 1/4 miles on turf. The Santa Ynez, also a Grade 2, will be the supporting feature on Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day card.

The San Marcos has drawn nine entrants, including a trio of major stakes winners on turf at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting last October: The Tin Man, the winner of the Clement Hirsch Memorial; Night Patrol, the winner of the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile; and Johar, the winner of the Oak Tree Derby (and later the Hollywood Derby). All are capable of beating Grammarian.

But Greely said he is confident that Grammarian can continue his outstanding California form. While Grammarian, a 5-year-old gelding, has been erratic in Kentucky and New York, he has been first or second in all three California starts. Jose Valdivia Jr., who was aboard in the Hollywood Turf Cup and San Gabriel Handicap, has the mount.

"Grammarian tries every time, no matter what the distance," Greely said. "He's very legit. He runs from a mile and an eighth to a mile and a half."

The pace of the race will dictate whether Grammarian is around at the finish. Grammarian typically races on or near the front, which could pose a problem with pressure expected to come from The Tin Man and T.H. Lear.

"Jose knows the horse and he has a feel for him," Greely said. "I know T.H. Lear and The Tin Man have speed. Whether he's on the front or in second or third, I think he'll be in a good spot."

T.H. Lear has made a remarkable turnaround in the last year. Claimed out of a maiden race for $40,000 last February, the 5-year-old horse has won four of his last five starts, a span that began with a victory in a maiden claimer at Fairplex in September.

Trainer Richard Mandella has the best chance of upsetting Grammarian, with The Tin Man and Johar. The San Marcos will be Johar's first start against older horses and first start beyond 1 1/8 miles.

A three-time winner on this turf course, Johar has not been worse than third in his last six starts, all stakes for 3-year-olds. In the Hollywood Derby, Johar rallied from ninth to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Although he has never raced beyond 1 1/8 miles, his breeding suggests it will not be a problem. Johar's dam, Windsharp, was a multiple stakes winner, and she beat males in the San Luis Obispo Handicap and San Luis Rey Stakes in 1996.

The Tin Man is making his first start since finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Arlington Park on Oct. 26. A 5-year-old, The Tin Man won the American Handicap at Hollywood Park last summer and finished second in the Del Mar Handicap last September. In the Hirsch, run over the same course and distance as the San Marcos, he led throughout and won by a length.

"He likes to be on the lead, but he's won from quite a way back going a mile," Mandella said. "This is a good time to get him to come back."

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