02/25/2008 1:00AM

Heatseeker sharp for Big Cap


ARCADIA, Calif. - Six months after he joined trainer Jerry Hollendorfer's stable, Heatseeker can give the powerful trainer a historic win in Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Handicap.

Heatseeker will be Hollendorfer's first starter in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, and the 5-year-old has run well enough in recent weeks to suggest he will play a major factor in the 1 1/4 mile race.

Owned by William DeBurgh, Heatseeker won the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap at 1 1/8 miles at Hollywood Park in December. At this meeting, he was a troubled third in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap on Jan. 12 and a fast-closing second, by a head, to Well Armed in the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap at 1o1/8 miles on Feb. 9.

"I'm impressed with the entire horse and the way he looks," Hollendorfer said. "I think the horse can get a mile and a quarter. He's ready to do it now."

The Big Cap, the richest race of the meeting, will mark Heatseeker's first start at the highest level of racing since he finished third behind George Washington in the Group 1 National Stakes in Ireland in 2005, his final start in Europe.

Heatseeker was trained by Bobby Frankel when he arrived in the United States in 2006, and went winless in six starts. Since joining Hollendorfer's stable last fall, Heatseeker has won 2 of 5 starts.

"I'm a firm believer that horses have to win races to build their confidence," Hollendorfer said. "When they win, they realize they've done something great. He's happy."

Heatseeker has quick workout times in recent weeks. On Feb. 17, he worked five furlongs in 59.40 seconds, the fastest of 54 works at the distance. Sunday, he went five furlongs in 1:00, best of 24 at the distance. Hollendorfer described the Sunday workout as a "nice breeze."

Heatseeker has been assigned 116 pounds, three less than joint topweights Monterey Jazz and Tiago.

There is a spread of six pounds between the 15 candidates. The other weight assignments for the probable starters are Go Between at 118; Awesome Gem, Champs Elysees, and Student Council at 117; Air Commander at 116; Big Booster, Celtic Dreamin, Great Hunter, and Medici Code at 115; Zappa at 114; and Monzante and Seminole Native at 113.

The race will be limited to 14 starters. If all 15 enter, Seminole Native would be given preference over Monzante. The tiebreaker is total earnings in 2007-08; Seminole Native has earned $251,280 in that span, while Monzante has earned $83,076.

Seminole Native worked a half-mile in 50.60 seconds on Monday.

"He was within himself," trainer Jorge Gutierrez said. "He's a happy camper."