03/01/2008 1:00AM

Heatseeker hits peak in Big Cap


ARCADIA, Calif.-The 14 runners in Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Handicap were about halfway through their journey when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer began to think great things about Heatseeker's chances.

While Monterey Jazz was drawing off to a wide lead through a quick pace, jockey Rafael Bejarano had moved Heatseeker into fourth, and a clear position in a big field. Heatseeker ($16) rallied three wide on the final turn to reach the front passing the eighth pole, and held off a late run from Go Between to win the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap by three-quarters of a length.

It was the biggest win in in Heatseeker's career, and the first Big Cap win for Hollendorfer, Bejarano and owner William DeBurgh of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

From Hollendorfer's perspective, Bejarano's strategy aboard Heatseeker led to the win.

“The race was won going into the first turn when he kept him in the clear, that was the key to the race,” Hollendorfer said. “I didn't want the horse to get down on the inside with so many horses.”

Before Saturday, Heatseeker's biggest win was the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park in December. After the race on Saturday, Hollendorfer and DeBurgh had the Breeders' Cup Classic here in October as a long-range goal.

“Hopefully, it's the start of big things for the horse,” Hollendorfer said.

Heatseeker ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.42.

Heatseeker's trip was aided when Monterey Jazz, the 7-2 favorite, tore off to lead by as many as 12 lengths on the backstretch, setting early fractions of 24.02 and 46.89 seconds. Monterey Jazz quickened noticeably on the backstretch, but faded through the stretch to finish 12th.

Go Between, the winner of the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic for California-breds and Florida-breds on Jan. 26, closed from sixth, but could not reach Heatseeker. Jockey Garrett Gomez said that Go Between “was a handful behind the gate” but was better behaved during the race.

“The race part, the most important part, he was professional,” Gomez said. “He placed me in the race and not so far back. I just couldn't get to the winner.”

Champs Elysees, making his first start away from turf, closed from last to finish third, weaving through traffic in the final furlong.

Heatseeker was running in allowance races at this time last year. By Giant's Causeway, Heatseeker has won 6 of 15 starts and $930,223. The Big Cap win left Hollendorfer wondering how far the horse can progress this year.

“Sometimes, they take a while to find themselves,” Hollendorfer said.