01/25/2010 12:00AM

Loup Breton key to exacta in San Marcos


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Grade 2, $150,000 San Marcos, a 1 1/4-mile turf race for older horses, was originally scheduled to be run at Santa Anita as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday card. Racing was canceled due to stormy weather that day, and the race has been moved to Sunday's card.

Although rain has saturated the Santa Anita course and racing was canceled Thursday and Friday, racing is expected to be conducted there Sunday.

Loup Breton deserves top billing in the San Marcos. He defeated allowance company at Hollywood in his U.S. debut, then missed by only a neck when he finished second last time in the Grade 2 San Gabriel. He should have every chance to get the job done, with a number of his rivals stepping up in class and with an extra furlong to cover as a closer switching from 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/4 miles. Low odds are likely, so the exacta looks like a better play than a win bet.

Porfido is a logical candidate in the bottom half of this exacta. He is winless from his last 11 races, but he finished second four times and third four times during that span, with five of those placings earned against graded stakes company. He finished 1 3/4 lengths behind Loup Breton last time, in an allowance race Nov. 19.

High Court Drama defeated $62,500 second-level optional claimers on turf at Hollywood in his first U.S. start, then finished a solid second on the jump to Grade 3 company on Cushion Track in the Native Diver. He won't mind returning to the grass and should be a prime contender.

I'll key Loup Breton on top in the exacta, with Porfido and High Court Drama for second.

Rose Catherine cuts back on turf

There is another stakes race earlier on the Santa Anita card. The Sweet Life is a $60,000 stakes for 3-year-old fillies going 6 1/2 furlongs on the downhill turf course.

Rose Catherine finished sixth of seven last time on Cushion Track at Hollywood in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet. It wasn't pretty at the end of that 1 1/16-mile race, when she stopped badly and lost by 20 1/4 lengths. The good news is that she is a much better filly on turf than she has been on other surfaces, and she does her best running at sprint distances. Returning to the grass and cutting back to 6 1/2 furlongs makes a much stronger performance likely. Note that she graduated by 8 3/4 lengths at Belmont with a 91 Beyer Speed Figure in her first turf start, then weakened late and finished a close second going a mile in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in her other grass performance. She's my selection to win.

Miss Heather Lee beat $100,000 maiden claimers at Del Mar, repeated against $80,000 first-level optional claimers, then finished second in the $100,000 Moccasin and second behind Blind Luck in the Hollywood Starlet.

Tanda ran an improved race when she graduated at this distance on this course last time in her second career start. A little improvement with experience in her third race would make her a serious threat in the exotics.

I'll bet Rose Catherine to win, and I'll key her on top in the exacta over Miss Heather Lee and Tanda.

Pace should help Tornado Betty

The $50,000 El Paso Times shapes up as an interesting 6 1/2-furlong stakes at Sunland Park.

Trainer Steve Asmussen and the Heiligbrodt Stable have two 3-year-old fillies entered. I'll give Kinsolving the edge over Certain Pride based on her third-place finish in the Grade 3 Debutante at Churchill in June.

But my selection to win the race is Tornado Betty, who shows 3 wins and 3 second-place finishes from 7 career races. She rallied into a strong pace and edged clear to win the Arizona Juvenile Fillies last time at Turf Paradise. She'll find lively splits up front in this field and should be effective again with a mid-race bid. I'll take Kinsolving second and Certain Pride, who just beat allowance company, third.