09/03/2009 11:00PM

Mitchell has bigger goals for stakes runners


DEL MAR, Calif. - One horse was the stable's big hope for late 2008, the other filled that role this spring. Between them, Monzante and Grazen have given trainer Mike Mitchell the hope that they can become nationally prominent horses.

There is still time for both to achieve that lofty goal. Saturday at Del Mar, Monzante returns from a yearlong layoff in the $85,000 Windy Sands Handicap over a mile. Grazen, the winner of the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap in his stakes debut in June, starts in the $100,000 El Cajon Stakes for 3-year-olds on the same day.

"It was always the plan to run in these races," Mitchell said.

How they run Saturday will determine where they start in coming weeks.

Grazen has not started since finishing second to Misremembered in the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park on July 18. Mitchell wants to use Saturday's race as a prep to the $200,000 California Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Oct. 10. He has much bigger goals for early 2010.

"My goal is the Santa Anita Handicap," Mitchell said. "I think he's that good."

Owned by breeder Nick Alexander, Grazen is part of a field of eight in the El Cajon, which is run at a mile. Grazen has won 3 of 5 starts and will probably be favored. He must beat Chocolate Candy, who won the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby last February and was later second in the Santa Anita Derby, fifth in the Kentucky Derby, and most recently ninth in the Belmont Stakes.

"I'm glad he's not running in the Pacific Classic" on Sunday, said Dan Ward, assistant trainer to Jerry Hollendorfer. "But he's training like he could be. He's put on weight as they do when they get a little bit of a break."

A winner of 4 of 11 starts and $592,500, Chocolate Candy races for Jenny Craig.

None of the other runners in the El Cajon is a stakes winner.

Monzante won two stakes in 2008 - the Santana Mile on the main track at Santa Anita in March and the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap on turf here in July. He has not started since finishing fifth in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile Handicap in August 2008.

If he runs well, Monzante will be pointed to the $350,000 Goodwood Stakes, a Grade 1 over 1 1/8 miles on Oct. 10, Mitchell said.

"He works great on the synthetic track," Mitchell said. "We've decided to keep him on the synthetic and point for the Goodwood. There's no reason he couldn't run in those races."

When asked on Wednesday what Monzante can do Saturday, he quickly replied, "Oh, win. I've put some nice drills in him. I think you can have a horse ready with his style. He kind of plods along early and then finishes."

The Windy Sands marks the California debut of the 3-year-old Tamborin, who won stakes at Calder and Tampa Bay Downs earlier this year for trainer Bill Mott. Tamborin was third in the Don Jack Stakes on turf at Belmont Park on July 1. Tamborin won a maiden race on Arlington Park's synthetic track last September.

"I think he prefers the turf, but he's trained well on this synthetic track," new trainer David Hofmans said.