03/11/2010 12:00AM

Masters Call takes step toward bigger objectives

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A major stakes win has eluded Masters Call, a 5-year-old Quarter Horse who has been the subject of high expectations since he was purchased as a yearling for $485,000 in 2006. He won 5 of his first 6 starts, and has qualified for four major stakes, with his best finish in those races a seventh in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship on Feb. 20.

Saturday at Los Alamitos, Masters Call starts in the $25,000 Katella Handicap over 350 yards, seeking his third stakes win. The race is designed to prepare Masters Call for bigger races later in the season, such as the Vessels Maturity in June. With reigning World Champion Freaky not expected to return to training until late summer, Masters Call has a chance to get that major stakes win.

"We're trying to get him some more credibility," said trainer Paul Jones. "We want to get a few stakes wins and get him some money."

A winner of 8 of 20 starts and $90,747, Masters Call is part of a field of seven in the Katella Handicap. Masters Call is winless in four starts since a stakes win at Los Alamitos on Oct. 31. Since then, he was ninth behind Freaky in the $750,000 Champion of Champions in December, second in a time trial for the Winter Championship on Jan. 30, and was beaten 3 1/4 lengths by Freaky in the Winter Championship final on a track that had sustained rain earlier that day.

"He kind of ran a bad race in the Winter Championship," Jones said. "He had a bad start and he didn't like the racetrack. He doesn't run good on a sloppy track. This race suits him a little better."

Masters Call must beat Tres Passes, a millionaire who won the Golden State Million and Los Alamitos Two Million futurities in 2008 but was winless in three derbies last year. Trained by Blane Schvaneveldt, Tres Passes was eighth in a division of the Winter Championship trials after throwing his head at the start and essentially losing all chance.

The Katella Handicap is the stakes debut of Newport Thursday, who was claimed for $16,000 out of a maiden race on Nov. 19 and has won two races this year - a maiden race on Jan. 10 and an allowance race on Feb. 12.