01/10/2006 1:00AM

Kewen good alternative to class dropper


ARCADIA, Calif. - Looking at the field for the race-seven feature Thursday at Santa Anita, a handicapper might get a funny feeling - didn't they just run this race the other day?

A second-condition turf sprint Jan. 6 was decimated when it was switched to the main track because of concerns about the wet surface at the dirt crossing. Three turf-only horses scratched - Kewen, Richebourg, and Head of the House - and were re-entered in race 7 Thursday, along with two Jan. 6 also-eligibles - Wild Wadi and Art Moderne.

The conditions of the race were altered slightly and will change the betting. The Jan. 6 race was an optional $62,500 claimer; the optional claiming price Thursday is up to $80,000. It is a tougher race in which stakes-placed Golden Arrow runs for a tag for the first time in his 32-race career.

The drop will make Golden Arrow one of the favorites in his first start since Oct. 1, but he has at least two significant knocks. At age 7, Golden Arrow is on the downside of his career, and he frequently falls short. It shows up in his career box: five wins, eight seconds, and 10 thirds.

Trained by Neil Drysdale, is the "class" of the downhill sprint, and victory would be no surprise. But if a horse on the decline can be wagered against, then a horse that is improving can be wagered on. Kewen would have been a contender last week in the second-level allowance sprint, and he came back to work an easy five-eighths the following day.

A 6-year-old, ran a career-best race Nov. 4 first off the claim by Vladimir Cerin, and with two months between starts, expectations are for a similar effort Thursday. Kewen enters without an apparent flaw, though Thursday's field is potentially stronger than last week. He has won only three of 21, but is a better horse now for his new connections.

got rank on the lead when he went wire to wire in his U.S. debut last summer at Del Mar, and route horses who get rank often improve in faster paced turf sprints. His connections, trainer Bobby Frankel and jockey Pat Valenzuela, won four races last weekend.

Frankel and Drysdale each entered two. Frankel's second starter is Wild Wadi; Drysdale's second starter is comebacker Richebourg. Other entrants include downhill specialist Head of the House, Holdtheheldm, and Billy's Echo.

The only other allowance race Thursday is race 2, a N2X/optional $62,500 claiming sprint at six furlongs. Contenders include Blairs Roarin star, Watch Over Me, Salah Who, and shippers Taiaslew and Pure American.