01/13/2006 1:00AM

Proposed's fast track to success took a detour

Benoit & Associates
After missing 11 months, Proposed was all but forgotten, but she is poised for a big 2006.

PHOENIX - There was a time in the summer of 2004, before she had even started, that Proposed was to be all the rage. A sister to Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks winner Silent Sighs, Proposed was the veritable "talking horse" - everyone knew about her before she ever raced. She debuted in a stakes, the CTBA at Del Mar, and was bet down to 2-1, but was troubled that day and could manage only third. Even so, it was a promising debut, so as part of the entry going into the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante she was favored at 8-5.

Suffice to say, when entrymate Sweet Catomine powered home and Proposed faded in the lane, she was dismissed as pipe dream. Bad info.

In reality, Proposed had suffered an injury and wasn't seen again for 11 months. By July 2005, stablemate Sweet Catomine had won a championship and been retired. But Proposed was, in many ways, just getting started. Again.

So after hearing all the good things about her a year and a half or so ago, it's no surprise she goes into Sunday's Grade 2 El Encino at Santa Anita as a big threat. You would just be surprised how she got here.

Proposed came back, this time for new trainer John Shirreffs of Giacomo fame, and started over. She won her maiden impressively at Hollywood Park in July and then won two of her next three allowance/optional claiming engagements. Shirreffs decided that the Cal Cup Matron on Nov. 6 was the right time to step things up. She ran on well, finishing third to Dream of Summer, who earlier in the year won the Grade 1 Apple Blossom, and House of Fortune, who won the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks in 2004 and another stakes at Hollywood in December. Proposed dueled but faltered a bit late, beaten slightly less than three lengths.

Shirreffs still had to like what he saw. He wheeled her back in another allowance race at Hollywood on Dec. 16 and she won in a romp, earning a career-best 98 Beyer.

That sets up Proposed for a big 2006. With so many of her peers sidelined/retired/targeting something else, this is a prime opportunity for her. And Shirreffs knows it - hence, he paid to supplement her to the 1 1/16-mile race for 4-year-old fillies.

Her path to the spotlight was supposed to be immediate, and while that wasn't attained, she might now be, after taking a detour, ready to step on center stage.

Frankel has several options with High Limit

Last Saturday's ultra-game win by High Limit in the San Pasqual at Santa Anita was big for a number of reasons. First, it showed he was fully back after a tough spring/summer last year that saw him go from Derby contender to falling off the map as one of the many Triple Crown victims. But High Limit was given plenty of time and has grown up. We already knew he had speed; the San Pasqual showed he has plenty of heart, too.

But, this is the reason trainer Bobby Frankel is such a success. After winning the 1 1/16-mile San Pasqual it would have been so easy for Frankel to just nod and say, "Perfect. Now we're off to the nine-furlong San Antonio next month, then the 10-furlong Big 'Cap and beyond."

No one would have questioned him. But here's why High Limit may go on and have an even bigger year - Frankel isn't going to be tempted by such races because he believes those distances are beyond High Limit's best.

Instead, Frankel immediately staked a claim for another target - the Grade 2 San Carlos at seven furlongs on Feb. 18. Frankel said he believes seven furlongs to a mile is High Limit's best game, and intends to use that avenue to give High Limit every chance for success.

And there is a great set of races for High Limit. After the San Carlos, Frankel can map out a sequence of similar races that can lead High Limit to big things. He can target the Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct (seven furlongs) on April 8 and maybe the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap (seven furlongs) on the Derby undercard on May 6. He could come back in the Met Mile at Belmont on May 29, take a break, and then come back in either the Grade 1 Triple Bend at Hollywood (seven furlongs) on July 4 or the Grade 2 Tom Fool at Belmont (seven furlongs) on July 16. Isn't it mouth-watering to think that in this string of races we could see him, Lost in the Fog, and Silver Train knocking heads?

Now High Limit may not be quick enough to be considered a Breeders' Cup Sprint type of horse, but a mile is his ideal trip, and he certainly hinted at promise in a couple of turf tries going longer last summer. That, coupled with the distance, makes him a prime BC Mile candidate. If all goes well there, Frankel could even take a swing at the Cigar Mile a bit later.

Sure, I'm getting well ahead of things here, but regardless of that, Frankel has an option that can make High Limit a well-known name and a big force . . . and not once would he have to stretch his horse to the "limit" in terms of distance.