03/18/2004 1:00AM

Harder job for Puerto Banus


ARCADIA, Calif. - Last month's San Luis Obispo Handicap was such an evenly matched, exciting race that Santa Anita is running it again on Saturday, only this time as the $200,000 San Luis Rey Stakes.

Like the San Luis Obispo, the San Luis Rey is a Grade 2 race that encompasses 1 1/2 miles of Santa Anita's downhill and infield turf course. Of the 11 horses in the San Luis Rey, seven are coming out of the San Luis Obispo, including the victorious Puerto Banus.

This time, however, Puerto Banus will have to overcome the 10 post. He got a ground-saving trip from post 2 in the San Luis Obispo, which saw the first five finishers separated by less than one length.

"He's training great, as good as going into his last race," Kristin Mulhall, the trainer of Puerto Banus, said Thursday morning at Hollywood Park. "The race didn't seem to take too much out of him. Hopefully he'll get the same trip, or a better trip."

is 3 for 6 since moving to Mulhall's stable. He is 2 for 3 for Mulhall at 1 1/2 miles. "He wants a mile and a half, and maybe a little further," Mulhall said.

Puerto Banus carries co-high weight of just 116 pounds along with Continental Red, who was third in the San Luis Obispo. also drew poorly, landing the outside post in the field of 11.

Meteor Storm, who was fourth after setting an easy pace in the San Luis Obispo, should get a target to run at this time, with the presence of Asong for Billy and Toccet, though the pace again figures to be soft.

Labirinto closed furiously to finish fifth in the San Luis Obispo, losing by only three-quarters of a length.

Runaway Dancer, who was seventh in the San Luis Obispo, is adding blinkers for this race. His trainer, Dan Hendricks, is concerned that Runaway Dancer drops too far back early.

"He gives himself so much to do it's ridiculous," Hendricks said. "They came home the last race in 23 seconds, and he made up eight lengths. Hopefully the blinkers will get him into the race earlier."

Runaway Dancer started from post 11 in the 12-horse San Luis Obispo. He is drawn in post 4 Saturday, and there is some speed inside of him, so he should be able to save ground.

Researched faded to finish eighth in the San Luis Obispo while well supported at 4-1. That was only his second start in this country since being imported from Great Britain.