02/15/2007 12:00AM

Latent Heat will need patience

Charles Pravata/Horsephotos
Latent Heat and jockey Edgar Prado capture December?s Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The cool tactics that Latent Heat displayed with a two-length win in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita in December may be needed in Saturday's $150,000 San Carlos Handicap.

Latent Heat won the first stakes of his career in the seven-furlong Malibu by stalking the early pace and pulling away. In the Grade 2 San Carlos, also at seven furlongs, Latent Heat will face a veteran group of sprinters that could present challenges throughout the race.

Proud Tower Too, the winner of the $2 million Golden Shaheen Sprint in Dubai last year, will set a quick pace, while Siren Lure, a three-time graded stakes winner in 2006, is expected to make his customary late kick.

Latent Heat will be between those two early, close to the front. Trainer Bobby Frankel is confident that Latent Heat can be patient in the early furlongs, especially if Proud Tower Too and perhaps Tontine Too set a quick pace. Frankel said he will entrust jockey Edgar Prado to gauge where to place Latent Heat.

"Prado knows how to ride him," Frankel said. "That's a smart horse. He's always laying close. He doesn't mind it."

Owned by Juddmonte Farms, Latent Heat has won 5 of 9 starts and $327,400. The Malibu was his first start since finishing ninth in the Grade 3 Perryville Stakes at Keeneland last October, a race Frankel dismissed.

"He was sick that day," Frankel said.

Frankel intends to use the San Carlos as a prep for two Grade 1 races in New York in the spring - the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct on April 7 and the Metropolitan Handicap on May 28.

To win the San Carlos, Latent Heat must catch the speedy Proud Tower Too, a 5-year-old who has trained well in recent weeks, according to trainer Sal Gonzalez.

Proud Tower Too has made two starts at this meeting, finishing third in the El Conejo Handicap at 5 1/2 furlongs on Jan. 1 and second in the Sunshine Millions Sprint on Jan. 27. They are his first starts since the Golden Shaheen last March, owing to an ankle injury discovered when he returned to training last summer.

Proud Tower Too won the seven-furlong Malibu Stakes in 2005.

"I think he can win," Gonzalez said. "I think his best distance is seven-eighths. He won't be behind the pace. We'll try not to rush him in the first part."

Gonzalez said he would not be insulted if bettors made Latent Heat the favorite over Proud Tower Too.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "I'm not used to being the favorite."

The San Carlos has drawn a field of 11, and few of the runners have as much speed as Proud Tower Too.

Ramsgate and Tontine Too are making their stakes debuts. Ramsgate, trained by Frankel, won three allowance races at Hollywood Park in the fall. Tontine Too, who has raced near the front in three of his five starts, won a 6 1/2-furlong optional claimer here on Jan. 19.

The 2006 stakes winners Majestic Stream and Northern Soldier have shown speed but are more likely to stalk the pace.

Harvard Avenue and Raise the Bluff are coupled, since both are owned by Ron Crockett.

Harvard Avenue is the stronger half of the entry, having won the El Conejo and finished second in the Palos Verdes Handicap on Jan. 20.

If Latent Heat faces early pressure, it would greatly help Siren Lure, who is trained by Art Sherman.

"I just need to get him softened up, which I think will happen," Sherman said of Latent Heat. At the same time, Sherman said Latent Heat's win in the Malibu "impressed me."

Siren Lure, 6, typically drops back in the first quarter-mile and can make a sustained half-mile run. The style worked in the Los Angeles, Pat O'Brien, and Triple Bend handicaps last year.

"It's hard to change his style," Sherman said. "He relaxes so well in the first part. We've got to get lucky to come from off the pace. He's coming into the race really good."