02/21/2008 12:00AM

Medici Code taking shot in Big Cap


ARCADIA, Calif. - Medici Code, the winner of the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby last September, will make his synthetic-track stakes debut in the $1omillion Santa Anita Handicap on March 1, trainer Darrell Vienna said on Thursday.

Vienna cited the way that Medici Code has trained on Santa Anita's synthetic track as the main reason for his decision to the shift the 4-year-old from turf to the main track.

"He's trained well on this new variation," Vienna said.

Santa Anita's synthetic surface underwent a five-day renovation in early February, adding polymers and fibers from the Australian synthetic surface Pro-Ride to the existing Cushion Track surface.

Vienna said his horses have responded favorably to the surface since the renovation was completed.

"It's not so fast and it stays pretty consistent," he said. "The horses seem pretty happy out there. They're coming out with joints cool and intact."

Vienna was not as enthusiastic about the Cushion Track surface before the renovation, saying the surface "wasn't consistent, and it was way too fast."

In recent days, Vienna has begun working horses on the main track. For several years, he worked horses on the infield training track when he was based at Santa Anita.

"I've just started using the main track," Vienna said. "I think it's better than it was before."

Vienna said he considered starting Medici Code in Saturday's $150,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on turf, but felt the higher purse money of the Santa Anita Handicap made the race more appealing.

"If we run third or better in the Big Cap, it's more money than winning the San Luis Obispo," he said.

The San Luis Obispo pays $90,000 to the winner. The first three finishers of the Santa Anita Handicap receive $600,000, $200,000, and $120,000, respectively.

Owned by Bill and Donna Herrick, Medici Code has won 4 of 13 starts and $387,547. He won three races in nine days on synthetic tracks in England in late January and early February of 2007.

Medici Code was purchased shortly after those races by the Herricks, and finished sixth in the Santa Anita Derby in his U.S. debut last April. Medici Code won the Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar last August, but was disqualified from purse money after failing a drug test. He won the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby in his next start.

Medici Code has yet to start this year. In his most recent start, he finished third in the Grade 2 San Gabriel Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf here Dec. 30.

Vienna said the Big Cap distance of 1 1/4 miles will suit Medici Code.

"I think that's the distance for him," he said. "I don't think class is a question."

Big field shapes up for Big Cap

The Big Cap has 14 probable starters, led by Go Between, the winner of the Sunshine Millions Classic on Jan. 26, and Monterey Jazz, the winner of the Strub Stakes on Feb. 2.

Other candidates are Air Commander, Awesome Gem, Big Booster, Celtic Dreamin, Champs Elysees, Great Hunter, Heatseeker, Monzante, Seminole Native, Student Council, and Tiago.

Champs Elysees, the winner of the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes last month, is another horse who has been racing on turf but will be tried in a stakes on the synthetic track for the first time.

Awesome Gem, third in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Monmouth Park last October, worked six furlongs in 1:11.60 at Hollywood Park on Thursday, the fastest of 18 recorded works at the distance.

Awesome Gem was ridden by David Flores, who has the mount in the Big Cap. Trained by Craig Dollase, Awesome Gem finished third in his first start this year, the San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 9.

Dollase also trains Monterey Jazz, but has not finalized a rider for the 4-year-old colt.

"I've got two big hands going into the Big Cap," he said.

Super High Five catching on

The $1 Super High Five, a wager that requires bettors to correctly select the first five finishers in the last race each day, had a record pool of $459,335 on Wednesday, after a two-day carryover of $274,952.

The bet paid $2,042.40 to 313 ticket holders.

The Super High Five was launched at the start of this meeting in late December, and the pool has been growing in recent weeks. In late December and January, the pools exceeded $100,000 on 3 of 20 racing days. Through Wednesday, the pool has exceeded $100,000 on 10 of 12 racing days in February, and has exceeded $200,000 on three occasions.

Through Wednesday, the 32nd day of racing, the Super High Five pool has averaged $119,908.

While Wednesday's pool was a record, the record payoff occurred on Feb. 11, when two tickets were worth $121,172 on a day when the bet started with a carryover of $82,493. There have been seven days in which the bet offered a carryover. The bet does not offer a consolation payoff.

Baffert works his two champions

Trainer Bob Baffert worked his two 2007 champions at Santa Anita on Thursday. Champion sprinter Midnight Lute breezed three furlongs in 35.60 seconds.

Last month, Baffert said that Midnight Lute would make his 2008 debut in the $300,000 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct on April 5.

Indian Blessing, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2007, worked a half-mile in 48.80 seconds. Unbeaten in five starts, she will make her next start in the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks in Louisiana on March 8.

Conlon fined for clenbuterol positive

Trainer Melody Conlon has been fined $3,000 by the California Horse Racing Board after one of her starters at the 2007 Hollywood Park fall meeting tested in excess of the permitted level of clenbuterol.

The excessive test was taken from Tommys Luck, who won a maiden claimer for sprinters on Nov. 21.

The penalty was part of a stipulated agreement between Conlon and the racing board and must be paid in two installments - $1,500 by Wednesday and $1,500 by March 27.

Clenbuterol is a bronchial dilator used to aid horses with breathing problems. It is allowed to appear in postrace tests at minute levels.