10/26/2006 12:00AM

Moscow Burning gets P. Val for finale


ARCADIA, Calif. - Moscow Burning goes for her third victory in four years in the $100,000 California Cup Distance Handicap, a 1 1/4-mile turf race for fillies and mares at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting. Moscow Burning won the Distance Handicap in 2003 and 2005, and will be favored to do so again on Saturday.

The richest California-bred female in history, with earnings of $1,411,800, Moscow Burning is expected to be retired following this race. Owner Don Van Kampen plans to sell her in Kentucky next month.

Trained by Jim Cassidy, Moscow Burning will be ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, who replaces Norberto Arroyo Jr. With Arroyo, Moscow Burning finished second in the Grade 1 John Mabee Handicap and Solana Beach Handicap at Del Mar, losing both races by a nose, and finished seventh in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon Stakes here on Sept. 30.

In the Yellow Ribbon, Moscow Burning was in traffic on the final turn and never recovered.

"She didn't handle the turn very well," Cassidy said.

Moscow Burning led throughout the 2005 California Cup Distance, but has raced from off the pace for much of this year.

If that scenario occurs on Saturday, she will be chasing the improving Special Heather and attempting to hold off a late run from Janzig Moon. Paddy Gallagher trains both Special Heather and Janzig Moon.

Special Heather, 5, has won her last three starts, and is making her stakes debut. She has been on the lead in each of those races.

"She hasn't been racing against mares like Moscow Burning," Gallagher said. "We've got to take a shot."

Janzig Moon finished a nose behind Moscow Burning when third in the Solana Beach Handicap on Sept. 3. The race was Janzig Moon's stakes debut and was typical of her style of rallying from off the pace.

"She looks like whatever ability she has, she gives," Gallagher said.

The same can be said of Moscow Burning, who will attempt to go out a winner on Saturday.

Small fields for starter handicaps

The two $50,000 starter handicaps drew small fields, and will be run as the second and third races.

The Starter Sprint Handicap at six furlongs, restricted to horses that have started for claiming prices of $32,000 or less, has seven entrants. Mom Is Ready and Evanston, the first two finishers of an allowance race for statebreds on Oct. 4, figure to lead the betting.

There will be support for Wind Water, who led throughout a $50,000 claimer on Sept. 30. Wind Water starts from the rail.

The Starter Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on turf is led by Phar to Win, a smart-looking winner of an optional claimer for statebreds on Sept. 28. Trained by Ray Bell, Phar to Win has won three consecutive races since returning from a 20-month layoff in July.