01/03/2008 1:00AM

Molengao's road back starts here


ARCADIA, Calif. - Molengao came within three-quarters of a length of winning last year's Santa Anita Handicap, finishing second to Lava Man. That effort followed a victory in the San Antonio Handicap, and put Molengao right near the top of the West Coast's older horses. But he made just two starts after the Big Cap, and has not been seen since June 30, when he ran fourth in the Hollywood Gold Cup.

Molengao got body sore during the summer, and it took months for trainer Paulo Lobo to get him right. His road back to the Big Cap is scheduled to begin on Saturday - weather permitting - in the Grade 2, $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita.

The San Pasqual, for older horses at 1 1/16 miles, is the ninth race on a 10-race card that also includes the Santa Ysabel Stakes for 3-year-olds fillies. First post time is noon. A series of rainstorms were forecast to hit Southern California beginning Thursday night, which could impact the field, even racing itself, since Santa Anita management remains concerned over how its Cushion Track surface will drain.

Seven entered the San Pasqual. Three of them - Hello Sunday, Racketeer, and Thousand Words - are trained by Bobby Frankel, but he said he would run two. "I'm not sure which two," he said Thursday. "I'm flopping back and forth."

Even though Molengao has not raced in more than six months, he was assigned top weight of 120 pounds. He has raced three times on a synthetic surface, all on Hollywood Park's Cushion Track, where he won the Mervyn Leroy Handicap in May.

Molengao will give three pounds to Heatseeker, who is coming off an upset win over Racketeer in the Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park on Dec. 8. Heatseeker is unbeaten in two starts on synthetic surfaces since Jerry Hollendorfer took over as his trainer.

Racketeer appears to be Frankel's best chance. He was second in the Native Diver despite racing off a six-month layoff.

Hello Sunday was seventh of 10 in the Native Diver. He has won once in eight starts since being imported from France.

Thousand Words, bred and raced in Britain, is making his first start in the United States. He has not raced since September, or on a synthetic surface.