Updated on 09/16/2011 6:39AM

Little certain in San Miguel


ARCADIA, Calif. - There is plenty of turmoil in the field for Sunday's Grade 3 San Miguel, a six-furlong stakes for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita.

Two of the six entrants - Royal Moro and Bring Jung - are in the process of being sold. Another, Distinction, is a five-start maiden who cost $4.2 million. The other three - Expected Program, Popular, and Roman Dancer - enter the San Miguel off abysmal efforts at short prices.

The San Miguel is the first graded stakes for 3-year-olds of the winter meet, and Roman Dancer enters as the horse to beat, though a case can be made for all six. The San Miguel is race 3 on a nine-race card that includes the Grade 2 San Gorgonio Handicap (race 8) for older female turf runners.

Roman Dancer's runaway win in the Sunny Slope Stakes on Oct. 20 established him as one of the top sprinters of his division. The reputation was short-lived.

"He kind of went to pieces after that race," said his trainer, Chris Paasch. "Off that 107 Beyer, he kind of bounced a little bit."

Did he ever.

Roman Dancer floundered and finished sixth at 7-5 in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue at Hollywood Park in November. Two months later, he seeks redemption.

"He gets hold of this track better than the other," said Paasch.

Still, questions abound. Roman Dancer lugged out in his Jan. 1 work - Paasch said it was out of boredom - and a Jan. 9 half-mile work was faster than Paasch preferred. Nonetheless, Roman Dancer's pressing style should allow he and jockey Kent Desormeaux a good trip from the outside post.

Popular also went to pieces at 7-5, in the post parade of his last start, a Dec. 26 allowance race. Runner-up in the Hollywood Prevue one race earlier, Popular was done at the quarter pole of the allowance and finished seventh. Trainer Bob Baffert hopes Popular stays dry in the post parade of the San Miguel, in which case he fits off his previous effort.

Expected Program was the top

2-year-old of spring, but ran poorly in two starts in the fall and has not started since Oct. 6.

Though still a maiden, Distinction earned an astronomical pace figure Dec. 30 in a two-turn race. He worked a blistering half-mile since that start, and Distinction, a son of Seattle Slew, may be coming to hand for Wayne Lukas. He'll have no easy time of it, because he is stuck in post 1 in a field that is filled with speed.

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