10/24/2005 12:00AM

Hard to look past Masterpiece


ARCADIA, Calif. - Masterpiece towers over five rivals Wednesday at Santa Anita, where he makes his third start in North America in a mile turf race that is the seventh-race feature.

A Group 1 winner in Argentina, Masterpiece may start at even-money or less in the second-level allowance with a $62,500 claiming option. Trained by Pete Eurton, Masterpiece established his North American class with two sharp efforts this summer at Del Mar, either of which would be good enough to win in this spot.

Trained by Pete Eurton, Masterpiece finished third in his July 24 comeback in a race that produced a flurry of next-start winners. The winner, Three Valleys, returned to take the Grade 2 Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap; runner-up He's the Rage won an allowance; fourth place Wild Buddy won a $85,000 claimer; and eighth-place Direct Male won a $50,000 claimer.

lost his next start, but his runner-up finish in a highly rated two-other-than allowance validated the 5-year-old's form. He was beaten a neck Sept. 7 in a race clocked in 1:39.93 over a Del Mar turf course that produced fast times all summer.

Masterpiece enters with a record of 5 wins and 6 seconds from 14 starts. He remains eligible for a two-other-than because his three allowance wins in Argentina were for low purses.

The main rival for Masterpiece is a lightly raced import from Brazil. won his second U.S. start April 23 at Hollywood Park, his second win from three career starts, but then was pitched into the Grade 2 Californian on June 18. He was no match for Lava Man, and retreated to finish sixth of seven. That was his last start.

Trained by Paulo Lobo, Molengao returns with a solid work pattern, and a history of firing fresh. He won his debut, and finished a promising third in his first start in North America. Molengao has never raced on grass, but was sired by 1990 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Royal Academy.

is the horse to catch, but his turf form is subpar. Ibero Grace makes his first start since being claimed Aug. 10 at Del Mar; Head of the House and Victory Light have run races that put them in the hunt.