08/21/2008 11:00PM

Longer is better for Spring House

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Spring House was getting warmed up when he reached the stretch of the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar on July 20. Making his first start since a 10th-place finish in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic in March, Spring House was closing on the leaders when he got stuck in traffic in the 1 1/8-mile turf race. He wound up fourth.

The loss did not shake trainer Julio Canani's confidence. He considered the Eddie Read to be a wake-up race for Spring House, who starts in Saturday's $250,000 Del Mar Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on turf. The Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap is not as prestigious as the $400,000 Eddie Read, or worth as much money, but Canani thinks that Spring House is better suited to Saturday's race.

"I was happy with his last race," Canani said. "A mile and an eighth is too short for him. He's training unbelievably."

From Canani, that last statement is an endorsement.

Owned by R.D. Hubbard, Spring House carries top weight of 118 pounds in the Del Mar Handicap. The Del Mar Handicap is part of the Breeders' Cup's Win and You're In program, offering a berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, subject to the payment of entry fees.

The BC Turf is on Canani's mind. First, Spring House needs to duplicate his two stakes wins in the last year - the Grade 3 Carleton Burke Handicap at Santa Anita last fall and the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo Handicap there in February. In both races, run at 1 1/2 miles on turf, Spring House lagged at the back of the field for the first mile, then made a move on the turn before pulling away to win each race by 2 1/4 lengths.

Corey Nakatani rides Spring House, replacing Garrett Gomez, who is riding at Saratoga on Saturday.

Spring House is part of a nine-horse field that lacks a confirmed front-runner. There is no shortage of distance specialists.

Aside from Spring House, who was third in the 2007 Del Mar Handicap, the race includes 2007 Del Mar Handicap runner-up Runaway Dancer, a 9-year-old making his 2008 debut; Tissy Fit, the winner of the Tanforan Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on turf at Golden Gate Fields last November; and Transduction Gold and Church Service, who were fourth and fifth in the Grade 2 Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 13.

Trainer Paulo Lobo has two runners - Heroi Do Bafra, a Group 1 winner in Brazil in 2006 who has yet to win a stakes in this country, and Mr. Universo, who won the Group 1 Brazilian Derby in 2007. Mr. Universo was fourth in an optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles on turf in his U.S. debut on July 26, finishing well.

"I was looking for a distance horse, and he's a distance horse," Lobo said of Mr. Universo. "I think the horse to beat is Julio Canani's horse."