02/24/2006 12:00AM

King's Drama tops powerful Tanaka trio


ARCADIA, Calif. - The Grade 2, $150,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap might still be a neat little turf race Sunday at Santa Anita, despite the defection of The Tin Man, who will aim instead for a race in Dubai. But instead of an attractive wagering contest, the San Luis Obispo has become an odds-on showcase for a powerful three-horse entry owned by Gary Tanaka.

Grade 1 winner King's Drama, Grade 2 winner Atlando, and Group 3 winner Aubonne will be coupled in the 1 1/2-mile San Luis Obispo. Seven others with marginal chances also were entered.

The only knock on King's Drama is the course profile, which clashes with his front-running style. Entering Friday, it had been six weeks and 37 races since a turf route was won on the front end.

"If he's going to make the lead, it's going to be going real easy," said trainer Bobby Frankel. "He's a pretty game horse."

He also is the class of the field. King's Drama has won eight races and $869,916 from 28 starts, including the Grade 1 Sword Dancer last summer and Grade 2 Red Smith last fall.

was compromised by a foot problem when he finished 16th in the Japan Cup on Nov. 27, but Frankel expects a return to form Sunday under Pat Valenzuela. King's Drama carries high weight of 122 pounds and concedes at least six pounds to his rivals.

will try to improve on his fourth-place finish Jan. 22 in the Grade 2 San Marcos Handicap. Atlando was positioned well off the pace, made up nearly eight lengths, but ran out of room.

"He has making up ground, but he had too much to do," said trainer Darrell Vienna. "It was my fault. I thought that was how he wanted to run."

Winner of the Grade 3 Knickerbocker Handicap last fall, Atlando has won 5 of 15 starts. Vienna said Atlando would be positioned closer to the lead Sunday.

The third part of the Tanaka entry is , who is trained by Neil Drysdale. She won a minor stakes against fillies and mares last time out.

Bouthan, trained by Frankel, adds blinkers and is prepping for the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Handicap on April 23.

The San Luis Obispo field also includes T.H. Approval, the 2005 San Juan winner, and Clipperdown, who was unlucky in a classified allowance 10 days ago, when he was blocked through the lane.