01/10/2008 1:00AM

Izarra gets tall order in Santa Ynez


ARCADIA, Calif. - Trainer Ron McAnally admits that Izarra will have trouble beating Indian Blessing in Sunday's $150,000 Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita.

In his opinion, the seven-furlong distance of the Grade 2 Santa Ynez for 3-year-old fillies suits the speedy Indian Blessing more than it does Izarra, a closer. McAnally predicted such in a recent conversation with Bob Baffert, who trains Indian Blessing.

"I told Baffert he could have this one, and we'll take the Oaks," McAnally said, laughing.

"His filly has a ton of speed and I don't know if we can catch her going seven furlongs."

Izarra, second in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes here in September, was 10th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27, a race that Indian Blessing won. Indian Blessing is expected to be named champion 2-year-old filly of 2007 later this month.

Even though he is all but conceding the Santa Ynez Stakes, McAnally is confident that Izarra can play a major role in the division this winter, especially in longer races such as the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks over 1 1/16 miles on March 8.

Owned by breeder Janis Whitham, Izarra is one of seven 3-year-old fillies in the Santa Ynez, the third race on Sunday's 11-race program. She is seeking her first stakes win in her fifth start, a span that includes a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante last September.

McAnally said Izarra has thrived since the BC Juvenile.

"She's put on a little weight and is acting good," McAnally said.

While Indian Blessing will be a deserving favorite in the Santa Ynez, she is not the only top-class 3-year-old filly on this circuit. Country Star, the winner of the Alcibiades Stakes and Hollywood Starlet last fall for trainer Bobby Frankel, is being prepared for the Las Virgenes Stakes on Feb. 9 and the Santa Anita Oaks.

McAnally knows Izarra must eventually face Country Star as well.

"That's another story," he said.

The Santa Ynez is the first of three stakes, all for fillies, on Sunday. The $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies over 1 1/16 miles has drawn a field of six, including Turn Away, a troubled third in the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs in November.

The $150,000 El Encino Stakes for 4-year-old fillies over 1 1/16 miles marks the stakes debut of Zenyatta, who is unbeaten in two starts. She faces Romance Is Diane, the winner of the California Cup Matron and Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap in her last two starts, and Tough Tiz's Sis, the winner of the Grade 1 Lady's Secret Stakes here in October.

Scibelli returns from injury

Scibelli was beaten a head in his career debut at Del Mar last summer. Five months later, after overcoming a minor ankle injury, Scibelli is on the verge of his first victory when he starts in Saturday's third race, trainer Bob Hess Jr. said.

"He is better than ever," Hess said.

Scibelli will need to be. The maiden race over 6 1/2 furlongs has drawn a field of eight, including the promising first-time starters Behindatthebar, Highest Humor, and Home of the Gold, and Afleet Ruler, a game second in his debut last month.

Hess said Scibelli has trained well for his comeback. At Del Mar last August, he rallied from fifth in a field of 10 to just miss.

"He wasn't ready that day and he wrenched an ankle," Hess said. "I had him wearing blinkers that day, but he's so focused now that blinkers are coming off."

Idiot Proof, Greg's Gold skip Sunshine Millions

Idiot Proof and Greg's Gold, two of the top California-bred sprinters, will not start in the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint for Cal-breds and Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 26, their respective trainers said on Thursday.

Idiot Proof, third as the 3-5 favorite in the Grade 3 El Conejo Handicap on Jan. 1, is being pointed for the $100,000 Phoenix Gold Cup over six furlongs at Turf Paradise on Feb. 16, trainer Clifford Sise said. The $2 million Golden Shaheen Sprint in Dubai on March 29 remains a long-term goal, Sise said. Idiot Proof was second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Monmouth Park in October.

Greg's Gold, the winner of the On Trust Handicap at Hollywood Park on Dec. 22, may start in the $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap over six furlongs on Jan. 21, trainer David Hofmans said.

Greg's Gold breezed five furlongs in 1:01.60 at Santa Anita on Thursday, although Hofmans timed him in 1:00.60.

Hofmans said he would like to avoid shipping Greg's Gold out of California, which eliminates the Sunshine Millions from consideration.

* Santa Anita will offer a nine-race program beginning at 12:45 p.m. Monday, track officials said Thursday.

The program will feature two stakes for females that were postponed last weekend when racing was cancelled because of heavy rain - the $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf and the $75,000 Paseana Handicap over 1 1/16 miles.