03/03/2008 12:00AM

Heatseeker on target for Big Cap victory


NEW YORK - Big Cap Day on Saturday at Santa Anita finds the Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Handicap heading a card that also includes the Grade 1, $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap and the Grade 3, $200,000 Sham Stakes. The remaining graded stakes Saturday is the Grade 2, $350,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap, which drew a field of only five.

Santa Anita Handicap

You can make a good case for a lot of horses in this competitive field of 14. Breeders' Cup Classic third-place finisher Awesome Gem is eligible to improve second start back off a layoff, as is Grade 1 winner Student Council. Go Between ran big last time out when he won the Sunshine Millions over the track, as did Monterey Jazz when he won the Strub. Tiago is a better horse than he has shown in his first two starts this year, and Champs Elysees, winner of the San Marcos on turf most recently, is intriguing off of the surface switch. Yet as tough as this race might look on paper, I really like Heatseeker.

Heatseeker is a much improved horse since he was switched to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer's barn last fall, and it's interesting that the two best races he has run for Hollendorfer were the only two times in his career he raced as far as 1 1/8 miles. The first of those was a 30-1 upset of the Native Diver Handicap three starts back, and the other was a near miss in the San Antonio Handicap last time out. Heatseeker finished powerfully in the San Antonio to fall one jump short, and that big finish, combined with the strong way he galloped out after the race, is taken as an indication he will love the additional furlong he gets Saturday. Heatseeker shows two excellent bullet workouts since the San Antonio, suggesting he retains sharp form if he isn't at an even higher peak right now. And, Heatseeker has the closing style that has done so well lately at Santa Anita.

Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap

Although he will be looking for his first graded stakes victory in this country, Storm Military won't be any kind of big price in this spot, for that's how impressive he was winning the Thunder Road Handicap at the distance over the course most recently. But I'm hoping that the graded stakes winners Artiste Royal and Out of Control, and Sunshine Millions Turf winner War Monger take enough money to make Storm Military's price palatable, for he's a strong play for me.

Storm Military came to the United States from Argentina last year with a big reputation and finally showed why in the Thunder Road. He set a fast pace, dueling virtually the entire length of the backstretch, and yet still drew away strongly through the stretch. Storm Military might be even more effective when he has a target to stalk, and he should get that kind of trip Saturday tracking the speedy Willow O Wisp early.

As for Artiste Royal, Out of Control, and War Monger, it would be no surprise if one of them won. But I don't want to take Artiste Royal and Out of Control off layoffs against a sharp opponent like Storm Military, and I question the quality of the field War Monger beat in the Sunshine Millions.

John Battaglia Memorial

This is the feature at Turfway Park, and you have to love that Turfway always seems to have big fields in their stakes. In any case, although Big Glen and Your Round both ran well finishing first and second in last month's WEBN Stakes, I like Cherokee Triangle to win in his first start of the year.

If you can dismiss his two races on off turf courses, Cherokee Triangle's form last year was quite good. He was a sharp second in the Cradle to Old Man Buck, who came back to finish third in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity, and he won the Sunday Silence at Louisiana Downs by almost 11 lengths, earning Beyer Speed Figures as an immature horse almost identical to the ones his main rivals have earned lately. And Cherokee Triangle's recent works at Turfway suggests he likes Polytrack.