03/06/2010 12:00AM

Loup Breton taking shot on synthetic

Benoit & Associates
Loup Breton won the San Marcos last out.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The gamble of starting Loup Breton in Saturday's $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap is one worth taking, trainer Julio Canani insists.

With proven form on turf, and the absence of a standout in the historic race this year, Loup Breton will be asked to try something new when he starts in the Grade 1 Big Cap over 1 1/4 miles on Santa Anita's synthetic track.

If he wins, or runs very well, there is an expansive list of options for owner Wildenstein Stable and Canani to consider in coming months. If he loses, it will be back to turf.

"If it doesn't work out, you can take it off your mind," Canani said. "Once in a while, you've got to try."

The Big Cap has drawn a maximum field of 14, a reflection on the lack of a standout. There are plenty of horses that can be considered contenders, with 10 stakes winners since the start of 2009 in the field.

The Big Cap is the 10th race on an 11-race program that begins at noon Pacific. The Big Cap is the last of five stakes, three of which are Grade 1 races. In the preceding two races, Blind Luck will be heavily favored to win the $250,000 Santa Anita Oaks, while Fluke, the winner of the Grade 1 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park in November, will make his first start of 2010 in the $250,000 Frank Kilroe Mile. There is a $500,000-guaranteed pick four starting with the eighth race, the Oaks, and including the Kilroe Mile, Big Cap, and the final race on the card, a claiming sprint.

With a forecast for rain and five days of racing having been lost this meet because of drainage problems with the Santa Anita Pro-Ride main track, track officials are taking precautions. Late Friday, a plastic tarp is scheduled to be placed over the main track.

"If it happens, it will be the first time in history a racetrack will be covered," said the track's superintendent, Richard Tedesco.

Loup Breton is one of four entrants in the Big Cap carrying 117 pounds. St Trinians, seeking to become the first female to win the race, was assigned 113 pounds including her five-pound sex allowance.

Loup Breton has won 5 of 21 starts and $677,614 and won his only start this year, the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes over 1 1/4 miles on turf here on Jan. 24. Canani was left impressed by the way that Loup Breton worked his way through traffic through the stretch in that race.

"He was in trouble the whole way," Canani said. "I didn't think he would win."

With a large field in the Big Cap, traffic could be an issue for Loup Breton, but the 6-year-old horse will have a familiar jockey in Garrett Gomez, who has been aboard for Loup Breton's three starts in the United States. In France, Loup Breton won group stakes in 2007 and 2008 and was second in the Group 1 Prix Ganay there last April.

Misremembered, who will be well supported, may have the early lead, trainer Bob Baffert said. Misremembered stalked the pace in his second-place finish as the 3-5 favorite in the Grade 2 Strub Stakes over 1 1/8 miles here on Feb. 13.

"I'm trying something different," Baffert said. "I'll put him on the lead."

Misremembered has yet to win over 1 1/4 miles, having finished 10th in the Pacific Classic at that distance at Del Mar last September as a 3-year-old. Since then, Misremembered has won the Grade 2 Indiana Derby and finished second in three consecutive starts.

"He's a different horse than he was then," Baffert said. "I think he's more mature."

St Trinians is the 7-2 morning-line favorite, but history is working against her. She is the 42nd mare to start in the Big Cap. Three have finished second, most recently Island Fashion in 2004.

St Trinians won the Grade 2 Santa Maria Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 13, extending her unbeaten streak in the United States to four races. In England in 2008, she won three minor races on the all-weather track at Wolverhampton.

Trainer John Shirreffs has two starters, Neko Bay and Mast Track. Neko Bay won the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap in January and has been trained since then with this race in mind. Mast Track was sixth, beaten just a length, in the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 7 after setting the pace.

"One's a speed horse, and one is a come-from-behinder," Shirreffs said.

Strub winner Jeranimo will start from the outside post, but the draw does not bother trainer Mike Pender. Neither does Jeranimo's status as an 8-1 shot on the morning line despite the recent win.

"I'd rather lose a couple of lengths by going wide than lose five lengths being trapped," Pender said. "I don't want to be a target for anybody."