01/09/2004 12:00AM

'Last Minute' should get ideal setup

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Six furlongs may not be the optimum distance for . Yet the concern is minimal relative to the discomforting pace scenario that every other 3-year-old faces Sunday in the Grade 3 San Miguel Stakes at Santa Anita.

Five of the seven San Miguel entrants are front-runners. The group consists of Hosco, unbeaten after two starts; The Herc, a two-time stakes winner at six furlongs; Roi Charmant, a wire-to-wire maiden winner; Gethsemani, one-two at the first pace call in every start; and the filly Hot Weekend. Panama shipper Latitude completes the field.

Last Minute Detail rallied from nine lengths behind to win his Dec. 7 debut for trainer Don Chatlos, who preferred the colt's second start be in an easier, shorter race than the San Miguel.

"It's not what I wanted," he said. "I would have loved a seven-eighths allowance."

Distance concern aside, Chatlos could not have drawn up a more fitting pace scenario. Hosco has never been headed and The Herc set the pace in his last five starts. The race sets up for a closer.

Chatlos is convinced that Last Minute Detail, a colt by Devil's Bag, will improve around two turns. "That's really what he wants to do - the farther, the better," he said.

Chatlos and owner Jerry Little bought Last Minute Detail privately in Florida from Joe Senkovich, who previously had sold Singletary to Chatlos. Singletary was ineffective on dirt, but earned $245,702 on turf.

"The good thing about having had Singletary is I won't feel bad about pulling the plug if [Last Minute Detail] doesn't stack up with the best," Chatlos said.

Last Minute Detail has trained super since he last raced. Last Minute Detail and jockey Victor Espinoza must overcome a speed-friendly track profile, however. Through Thursday, 19 of 23 races at six furlongs had been won by horses within two lengths of the lead at the first pace call.

Hosco benefited from a pro-inside bias winning an allowance last out, and while his 98 Beyer Figure tops the field (15 points higher than Last Minute Detail's), the question is whether Hosco can survive pressure over a fair surface. The Herc is the most qualified, having won two sprints stakes and running second last out in a mile stakes at Golden Gate. Trainer Gary Stute had considered running him in the $100,000 Golden Gate Derby, a 1 1/16-mile race that was scheduled for Saturday.