02/28/2007 12:00AM

McCann's Mojave on outside for his Big Cap shot


ARCADIA, Calif. - Courtesy of an upset win in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park in January, McCann's Mojave is currently the nation's leading money-winning horse, with earnings of $550,000.

Whether McCann's Mojave can keep that title past Saturday depends on how he fares in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita.

The Big Cap will be McCann Mojave's first start over 1 1/4 miles and his first start in Southern California since he was sent to trainer Steve Specht at Golden Gate Fields last fall. Since switching barns, McCann's Mojave, 7, has won 3 of 4 starts, become a millionaire, and rejuvenated his career.

But to win the Big Cap, McCann's Mojave must run the race of his life against the toughest field he has faced. The Big Cap has drawn nine entrants, led by defending champion Lava Man and 2007 graded stakes winners Arson Squad, Awesome Gem, and Molengao.

"I know I'm an outsider, but I wouldn't be here if I didn't think we had a chance," Specht said.

Owned by Mike Willman, McCann's Mojave figures to play a prominent role from the start. While Specht insists that McCann's Mojave will not try for the lead, he figures to be near the front.

"He'll be very close, but I don't want to go to the front," Specht said.

McCann's Mojave drew the outside post, which did not overly concern Specht said.

"I didn't want to get on the inside," Specht said. "Being on the inside sort of forces you hand."

Instead, McCann's Mojave is likely to stalk pacesetter Ball Four, the runner-up to Molengao in the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 4.

The Big Cap will be Ball Four's first start on dirt over 1 1/4 miles. He finished eighth in the Sycamore Breeders' Cup Stakes over 1 1 2 miles on turf at Keeneland in October 2005, the longest start of his career.

"He's always a front-runner, so we won't change the horse's style," said trainer Patrick Biancone said. "He's strong, he's quite fresh, and he's very fit. He's coming into this race in great order."

Whether Ball Four or McCann's Mojave have the stamina to hold off Lava Man will be the main focus for bettors.

Lava Man will be the heavy favorite. Trained by Doug O'Neill for a partnership, Lava Man is seeking his ninth consecutive win in California, a span that includes the 2006 Big Cap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic.

Santa Anita Handicap Post Positions
Post #HorseJockeyWeight
1Awesome GemBaze T C116
2El RoblarMigliore R114
3BobomanSolis A115
4Ball FourLeparoux J R116
5Spring At LastFlores D R115
6Molengao (BRZ)Espinoza V116
7Lava ManNakatani C S124
8Arson SquadGomez G K117
9McCann's MojaveAlvarado F T115