10/08/2009 12:00AM

Mast Track far better than last indicates

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Compared with 2008, the summer of 2009 was not kind to Mast Track.

In 2008, Mast Track won the Hollywood Gold Cup and finished third in the Pacific Classic. This summer, he was winless in three starts, including a nose loss in the San Diego Handicap on Aug. 2. Then, he lost a shoe at the start of the Pacific Classic and finished last of 12, never taking his customary position near the front.

The recent loss reflects poorly on Mast Track's record in advance of a $54,000 allowance race at Santa Anita on Friday, but it does not discourage assistant trainer Humberto Ascanio.

"He lost his right front shoe," Ascanio said. "He overreached coming out of the gate. He came out of the race good.

"I don't want to give him an excuse, but coming out of the gate he stumbled. On this kind of track, if you don't break good, it's not a good thing to do."

Owned by trainer Bobby Frankel, who has been away from the races in recent months fighting an illness, Mast Track has won 5 of 18 starts and $852,022 in his career. He is winless in five starts this year, and is making his first start in an allowance race since a sixth at Santa Anita last March.

Friday's race is a stern test, featuring the millionaire 7-year-old Becrux, the stakes winners El Gato Malo and Tamborin, and graded-stakes-place runners Dakota Phone and Neko Bay.

El Gato Malo has won three stakes in his career, including the McCann's Mojave at Golden Gate Fields last February. He won an optional claimer over a mile on turf on Del Mar's closing day, Sept. 9, and is a threat from off the pace. A winner of 6 of 12 starts and $530,800, El Gato Malo could start in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile here on Nov. 7 with a win on Friday.

"He'll need to run a big race to win," Dollase said. "Our target is the Dirt Mile."

Neko Bay is harder to assess. Trained by John Shirreffs, Neko Bay 6, has not started since finishing second by a head in an optional claimer at Hollywood Park last December. He is making just the 10th start of his career, and has been first or second in eight starts.