12/17/2009 12:00AM

Much improved pair fit well in Stuka

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - From modest beginnings earlier this year, Cardiff Giant and Shudacudawudya have earned spots in Saturday's $50,000 Stuka Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Last summer, it would have been hard to envision that either 2-year-old would be in a stakes. All they had done at that time was win maiden claimers. But through the fall, Cardiff Giant and Shudacudawudya improved significantly.

Cardiff Giant, claimed for $32,000 at Del Mar on Aug. 22 by Mickey Gonzalez and trainer Jorge Periban, has since won 2 of 5 starts, including a $40,000 claimer in a fast time on Nov. 22.

Shudacudawudya won a $20,000 claimer in his debut at Golden Gate Fields in June and has since won 2 of 4 starts, including the minor Golden Nugget Stakes at Golden Gate Fields on Nov. 21.

The Stuka is restricted to nonwinners of a first-place purse of $50,000, and is therefore an ideal fit for both horses. The field does not feature the depth of a graded stakes.

Trainer Lloyd Mason wants to keep Shudacudawudya in sprints and feels the Stuka, over 6 1/2 furlongs, fits those plans.

"The extra half-furlong will be good for him," Mason said on Thursday from his base at Golden Gate Fields. "There wasn't a race here short for him. There was a race going long and we didn't want to do that."

Owned by Mason's son, Brett, Shudacudawudya overcame trouble, clipping heels on the turn, to win the Golden Nugget by three-quarters of a length over Sourdough Sam, who has since returned to win the one-mile Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate Fields last weekend.

Cardiff Giant's win in a $40,000 claimer last month was over 6 1/2 furlongs. He stalked the pace for the opening quarter-mile, before pulling clear in early stretch. Periban expects further improvement, and does not fear a jump in class.

"He'll run a good race on Saturday," he said. "The horse has changed a lot in the last month. In the morning, he's got a different attitude.

"It will be a good test. I don't want to say too much. We need to be lucky. It's step by step. I just claimed him for $32,000. You never know what to expect later."

The field of six includes three recent winners of maiden special weight races - Camp Victory, Domonation, and Tiz Chrome.

Tiz Chrome won a six-furlong maiden race at Churchill Downs in his debut on Nov. 1 for trainer Allen Crupper and was acquired following that race by a partnership that includes Terry Lanni and Mercedes Stable. By Tiznow, Tiz Chrome has worked quickly in recent weeks for new trainer Bob Baffert.