01/16/2009 12:00AM

Madeo due for some luck

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The autumn of 2008 was one to forget in the campaign of Madeo, who will start in Saturday's $150,000 San Fernando Stakes at Santa Anita.

Madeo finished second by a neck in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby on Oct. 25, lacking room at a pivotal time in the stretch. Then it happened again. In the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby on Nov. 30. Madeo raced in traffic from the eighth pole to the sixteenth pole and was beaten 3 3/4 lengths by Court Vision, finishing sixth. Both races were on turf.

Trainer John Shirreffs is not the sort to reflect on such a race and declare that Madeo definitely, positively would have won. He took a more low-key approach talking about the race earlier this week.

"I thought he would have run very well," Shirreffs said.

Madeo can show the bad luck is behind him in the Grade 2 San Fernando, which is run over 1 1/16 miles on Pro-Ride and is for 4-year-olds. The San Fernando will be Madeo's first start on a synthetic track since a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood last July.

Owned by breeders Jerry and Ann Moss, Madeo won twice on synthetic tracks last year - a maiden race here in March and a first-condition allowance race at Hollywood Park in April. He upset the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby on the turf in August and remained on turf in the final months of 2008.

"He trains 100 percent on the main track," Shirreffs said. "He's very versatile and shows up all the time. I don't think the surface makes any difference for him."

A winner of 3 of 9 starts and $347,915, Madeo has changed in recent months, Shirreffs said. "He's more mature and handles his racing very well," he said. "He doesn't get as excited before races now as then."

Madeo could get a favorable trip, if jockey Mike Smith can keep him clear of trouble. Muny, the winner of the Oak Tree Derby, and the New York shipper Wishful Tomcat are likely to be set the pace. Tres Borrachos, the winner of the Swaps Stakes, will be close to the leaders.

Wishful Tomcat, now trained by Bobby Frankel, has won his last three starts, including a front-running score in the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap over 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct on Nov. 22.

Muny followed his Oak Tree win with a fifth-place finish in the Hollywood Derby over 1 1/4 miles. The distance was too far, trainer Mike Puype said.

"This is straight 4-year-olds and it's a synthetic track," Puype said. "It's a logical entry.

"I'm not comfortable about switching surfaces. It's hard not to take a shot. If he fails, he won't see [the main track] again. It was either this or sit in the barn."

El Gato Malo, a three-time stakes winner, is a threat from just off the pace. Trained by Craig Dollase, El Gato Malo was fourth in a sprint race at Hollywood Park in November and third in the Sir Beaufort Stakes over a mile on Dec. 26.

"I think he got something out of the race last time," Dollase said. "I don't know if he got a lot out of that sprint at Hollywood. Hopefully, we're headed in the right direction."