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Lucky Pulpit a double threat
ARCADIA, Calif. - Lucky Pulpit shook off the reputation as being a "turf-only" 3-year-old with a runner-up finish to St Averil in the Grade 2 Santa Catalina Stakes on Jan. 17.
When Lucky Pulpit returns in Saturday's $200,000 San Rafael Stakes, trainer Clifford Sise and owner Larry Williams are looking for evidence that the colt belongs in further Kentucky Derby preps.
Lucky Pulpit was best on turf last fall, winning the minor Pinjara Stakes and finishing third in the Grade 3 Generous Stakes. He was entered in the Santa Catalina at Williams's insistence, Sise said.
"Fortunately, the owner said, 'I'd like to try him one more time on the dirt,' " Sise said.
The Grade 2 San Rafael over a mile is a key test in advance of the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 3. The San Rafael field is led by Lion Heart, the unbeaten winner of the Hollywood Futurity in December.
Other probable starters include Castledale, Hosco, Imperialism, Quinton's Gold Rush, Spellbinder, and Toasted. Hosco and Lion Heart will ensure a fast pace that could help Lucky Pulpit, a stalker.
"It's good for us because he needs something to run at," Sise said. "When he makes the lead too soon, he loses momentum. We're teaching him to rate and getting him to relax in the first part. If someone is in front of him, he stays more focused."
On Monday, Lucky Pulpit officially worked a half-mile in 48.80 seconds. Sise timed him in 1:00.60 for five furlongs. Lucky Pulpit started three lengths behind a stablemate and caught him in the final strides, galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.
"I think he'll run a good race," Sise said. "I don't see him running bad unless he gets a horrible trip."
Sarafan not at peak for 2004 debut
Sarafan will make his first start of the year in Saturday's $350,000 Frank Kilroe Mile, but trainer Neil Drysdale warns that the veteran millionaire may be short of his best effort.
Sarafan, 7, has not started since finishing 17th in the Japan Cup last November and has not won a stakes in four starts since the restricted Brubaker Handicap at Del Mar last summer.
Drysdale is using the Kilroe Mile as a prep to the $2 million Dubai Duty Free at Nad Al Sheba in the Middle East on March 27.
"He's only had one serious work, but he's an older horse," he said. "I'm not sure we'll see him at his best, but it should put him well."
Sarafan has won 9 of 36 starts and $2,390,271. His best year was 2002, when he won the Eddie Read and Explosive Bid handicaps and finished second in the Arlington Million and Japan Cup.
In the Kilroe, Sarafan shares topweight of 119 pounds with Sweet Return, the winner of the Hollywood Derby last November. Other probables include Apache Wings, Buckland Manor, Designed for Luck, Golden Dragon, Inesperado, Irish Warrior, Needwood Blade, and Singletary.
Designed for Luck worked five furlongs in 59.20 on Monday, which trainer Vladimir Cerin described as "phenomenal."
Bluesthestandard heavy chalk
Bluesthestandard, the ex-claimer, multiple stakes winner, and runner-up in the 2003 Breeders' Cup Sprint, will start as a strong favorite in Sunday's $150,000 San Carlos Handicap.
A win in that seven-furlong race would only enhance the impression that trainer Ted H. West has formed over the last six months.
"I think he's the best sprinter on the West Coast, especially with the improvement we've seen in the last three months," West said.
Bluesthestandard won the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Handicap as the favorite on Feb. 1, by a length. It was his first start since finishing second to Cajun Beat in the Breeders' Cup Sprint over this track in October.
West insists that the 7-year-old will be better over seven furlongs.
"A lot of times going six, he runs out of ground," West said. "We think it was a tad short."
Owned by Jeffrey Sengara, Bluesthestandard was claimed for $50,000 on Dec. 31, 2002, and has subsequently won 5 of 11 starts and $721,975. Overall, he has won 15 of 28 starts and $897,185. A win in the San Carlos Handicap would be worth $90,000.
Monday, Bluesthestandard worked five furlongs in 57.60 seconds, the fastest of 83 recorded works at the distance.
Bluesthestandard will face few opponents in the San Carlos. The probables include Captain Squire, who is winless in seven starts since the 2003 Sunshine Millions Sprint; Kela, who has not started since finishing sixth in the Pat O'Brien Handicap last summer at Del Mar; Marino Marini, who was second to Bluesthestandard in the Palos Verdes; and Publication, who was supplemented to the race on Sunday.
Angel Gift, 6, is retired
Angel Gift, a winner of two minor stakes who is graded-stakes-placed, has been retired and sent to Kentucky to be bred to Cherokee Run.
Angel Gift, 6, made her final start in the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap on Feb. 16, finishing sixth. According to Eddie Delahoussaye, the retired Hall of Fame jockey who was part of the ownership team, Angel Gift emerged from the race with an ankle injury that would have required a lengthy rest.
Trained by Paddy Gallagher, Angel Gift won 5 of 25 starts and $364,524. She won consecutive runnings of the Golden Poppy Handicap at Bay Meadows in 2002 and 2003, and finished second to Horse of the Year Azeri in the 2002 Clement Hirsch Handicap at Del Mar.
Newest Frankel: Burning Sun
Not that his stable lacks depth, but trainer Bobby Frankel has yet another turf male to follow in Burning Sun, who won his U.S. debut in Sunday's second race.
Ridden by Alex Solis, Burning Sun rallied from last in a field of six to win a $56,000 optional claimer over 1 1/8 miles on turf by a half-length over stablemate Bat Mobile.
Owned by Juddmonte Farms, Burning Sun, 5, has won 3 of 12 starts. He won stakes in England and France in the summer of 2002 when trained by Henry Cecil.
Congaree will sprint
Congaree, the winner of 10 stakes, breezed a half-mile in 48.40 seconds on Saturday, his first published workout since finishing a disappointing fourth in the San Antonio Handicap on Jan. 31.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Congaree will focus on sprints this year. He is expected to make his next start in the $350,000 Carter Handicap over seven furlongs on April 10.
Diamond Fury has knee surgery
Diamond Fury, purchased for $2.7 million at the 2003 Barretts March 2-year-olds in-training sale, is sidelined after recently undergoing surgery to remove a bone chip from a knee.
Trained by Baffert for Charles Fipke, Diamond Fury is winless in four starts. "He'll be out for 60 days," Baffert said. "He'll be all right. It was a small chip."
His purchase price set a record for a juvenile sold at auction, but has since been surpassed.