02/16/2006 12:00AM

Not sold yet on Wild Fit around two turns


ARCADIA, Calif. - The first thing jockey Alex Solis said to Wild Fit's trainer, Patrick Biancone, after the one-mile Las Virgenes Stakes last Saturday was that she needed more distance. Solis may be right, and expectations are for Wild Fit to improve off her runner-up comeback when she starts March 12 in the Santa Anita Oaks at 1 1/16 miles.

Skeptical handicappers, however, will remain dubious about Wild Fit's ability to stay two turns. After five starts, she looks like a terrific late-running sprinter who is vulnerable around two turns.

Wild Fit closed from seventh to second in the Las Virgenes, but her finish was mostly a product of the collapsing pace. The first half-mile of the Las Virgenes was run in 45.72 seconds; the second half-mile went in 50.82. Under the fast-slow race shape, Wild Fit had to look good, even if her closing rally was mostly an illusion. In her only previous two-turn race, the Grade 2 Oak Leaf Stakes in October, Wild Fit ran similarly. She went slow early, picked it up late, but finished second at odds of 1-2.

Perhaps Wild Fit will improve second start back, but bettors considering backing her at a short price in Santa Anita Oaks, or again in the upcoming Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, are hereby advised that Wild Fit has done little - so far - to indicate she wants to run long around two turns.

Point of Impact steadily progressing

Point of Impact is going to be a fun colt to watch develop if he ever gets his act together. A highly touted 3-year-old maiden, Point of Impact took a big step forward in race 1 Monday, but is a long way from becoming a genuine Derby prospect.

Wearing blinkers, shadow roll, and a tongue-tie, Point of Impact raced three wide and four wide throughout while positioned close to slow fractions of 47.57 and 1:11.90. He rallied four wide to hit the front turning for home, lugged in and raced on his wrong lead to the wire, and won by a length under Victor Espinoza in a tepid 1:44.41 for 1 1/16 miles.

A son of Point Given trained by Bob Baffert, Point of Impact was making his third career start. The race marked an improved effort over his last start when he tried to blow the first turn and finished fourth. Point of Impact paid $3.80 as part of an entry, and bettors who took the short price will probably come back on another Baffert-trained 3-year-old maiden Saturday who also figures to start at low odds.

Mr. Sekiguchi, the most expensive 2004 yearling at $8 million, makes his debut in race 3. A son of Storm Cat and a half-brother to A.P. Indy and Summer Squall, Mr. Sekiguchi has put in a series of fast works and enters the most likely winner of the 5 1/2-furlong maiden sprint. Baffert has compared Mr. Sekiguchi to Forestry, a Grade 1 winner on the track who became a successful sire. But is Mr. Sekiguchi worth a bet? When Forestry made his debut for Baffert on Jan. 2, 1999, he finished second at odds of 3-5.

An easy winner in San Carlos

A moderate West Coast sprint division will be strengthened Saturday by two fresh faces in the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap. Swaps Stakes winner Surf Cat and San Pasqual Handicap winner Congrats face Major Success and Jet West in the seven-furlong San Carlos. Barring the unforeseen, there may not be a bigger cinch on the card than Major Success.

Aside from apparently outclassed Brand Name, and possibly Surf Cat, the San Carlos has a scarcity of speed. From the outside post, Major Success and new jockey Pat Valenzuela should get a comfortable trip pressing the pace while in the clear. One reason Valenzuela is well atop the jockey standings is he understands the importance of speed, and it means Major Success will either set the pace or press from the outside.

Major Success was surprisingly game last month when he rerallied from between horses to win the Palos Verdes Handicap, and Saturday he figures to get a better trip. He seeks his fourth straight, and on paper he should get it done at a short price.

Southern Rule a vulnerable favorite

The $2 Magna 5 on Saturday includes one race from Santa Anita, and Southern Rule will be favored in the seven-furlong $25,000 claimer for 4-year-olds. But is he as good as his last makes him look? Southern Rule was to be ridden by Garrett Gomez on Jan. 11, when he was scratched in the warm-up. He returned two weeks later with a new rider, improving apprentice Juan Ochoa, and finished second in a fast race.

But third-place finisher Dynawhite returned Wednesday to finish fifth as the 8-5 favorite in a $16,000 claimer, and Southern Rule's fast-early, slow-late running style might not bode well for seven furlongs on Saturday. There is also a ton of speed, and the race could fall apart in favor of closer Spectacular Bay or Harbour Town.

Meanwhile, the $1 pick four at Santa Anita remains popular. The bet is affordable, hittable, and pays well. Thirty-seven days into the meet, the median payoff was more than $900. The highest payoff was $14,797.70, and only two pick fours failed to pay $100.

Popular horseplayer dies

Jimmy Nestegard made people smile, including the scores of racetrack friends he made during 17 years as a horseplayer. Nestegard was the Nevada retiree whose dying wish was to spend a summer at Del Mar. His dream came true; Nestegard spent the entire 2005 summer meet at Del Mar, where his circle of friends grew to include trainers, jockeys, and racing media.

Nestegard died Feb. 10 after a long battle with cancer. A memorial service will be held Sunday at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in his hometown of Sparks, Nev. Gail, his wife, survives Nestegard.