03/01/2010 1:00AM

Meeting has Pender riding on air


ARCADIA, Calif. - Forgive Mike Pender if he seems a little overwhelmed at Santa Anita this week.

Saturday's $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap is quickly approaching, and Pender has an excellent chance to win his first Grade 1 with Jeranimo.

Already at this meeting, Jeranimo has provided Pender and owner B.J. Wright with their biggest win in racing, in the $200,000 Strub Stakes on Feb. 13. The reality of having a contender in the Big Cap is slowly sinking in for Pender.

"What am I supposed to think?" Pender said in amazement on Sunday. "I just won the biggest race of my career."

Pender is taking a different approach with Jeranimo's preparation than most trainers would. The colt will not have had a workout from the Strub to Saturday's race, and has not had one since Dec. 21, when he worked a half-mile. Instead, Pender has relied on gallops and races to keep Jeranimo fit. The Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap will be Jeranimo's fifth start of the meeting.

"We had him right where we wanted him a month ago, and we've kept him in maintenance mode since then," said Pender, 44. "I don't think you want to do too much. I don't think you want to overdo it on this particular synthetic track.

"He'll just do a two-minute lick. He's a galloping into the race just beautifully. If a horse gets as much out of his gallops as workouts, there is no reason to stray for that formula."

Jeranimo will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano for the first time in the Big Cap. The leading rider at this meeting, Bejarano replaces Martin Garcia, who rode Jeranimo in the Strub, but has taken off that winner to ride Strub runner-up Misremembered.

Bejarano, said Pender, "should fit this horse perfectly."

The Big Cap should have a maximum field of 14, including Loup Breton, Marsh Side, Mast Track, Neko Bay and Palladio, all at 117 pounds; Jeranimo and Misremembered, at 116 pounds; Dakota Phone, Eagle Poise, Pick Six, Pool Play, Rendezvous and Tiger's Rock, at 114 pounds; and the mare St Trinians, at 113 pounds.

St Trinians, 5, is on a four-race winning streak. She is allowed a five-pound allowance as a female, meaning she is actually weighted at 118 pounds. As a result, she is ranked ahead of Acclamation, High Court Drama, Massone, Philatelist, Spurrier and Unusual Smoke, all of whom are males and have been given 113 pounds.

If one of the horses among the first 14 probable starters drops out before entries are taken on Wednesday, Massone would be the next horse to join the field. Horses assigned the same weights are ranked by total earnings in 2009 and this year. Massone has earned $395,900 in that span.

Deal struck for San Luis Rey Downs

A group of horsemen who stable at San Luis Rey Downs have reached an agreement to lease the training facility, which had been scheduled to close on March 15. San Luis Rey Downs, located in the northern San Diego County town of Bonsall, is owned by Magna International, the parent company of Santa Anita Park's owner, Magna Entertainment.

Leigh Ann Howard, a trainer and the San Luis Rey Downs facility manager, said that she was working with attorneys on a two-year lease "with multiple extensions" that will allow horses to continue to train there.

San Luis Rey Downs had approximately 260 horses on the grounds in mid-February with capacity for 530. It is a base for some trainers who campaign horses in Southern California, and is also used by trainers for horses who are returning for layoffs and 2-year-olds.

* John Deeter, who owned Thoroughbreds for more than 50 years, died on Feb. 16, according to his friends. Deeter was 90 and had been suffering from Parkinson's disease. A native of Shreveport, La., Deeter campaigned the stakes winners Bargain Doll, Love Conquers All, and Khal Me Roger.