10/13/2004 11:00PM

Quick pace right up Market Garden's alley

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ARCADIA, Calif. - With his eyes on prospects for Del Mar, Sid Craig called trainer Bill Spawr in July and asked him to inspect and possibly claim a 4-year-old filly running at Hollywood Park.

Spawr claimed that day for $80,000. Two weeks later, she finished second in the Daisycutter Handicap at Del Mar.

What Market Garden has done since has made that purchase seem like a bargain. Racing for Craig and his wife, Jenny, Market Garden won the Pio Pico Stakes at Fairplex Park on Sept. 17 and enters Saturday's $150,000 California Cup Distaff over about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf at Santa Anita as a top contender.

"I'm glad the Craigs called," Spawr said.

Market Garden may be ideally suited for the Distaff. She is a stalker who may get a perfect trip behind Alphabet Kisses and Icantgoforthat. She also is feeling good, Spawr said.

"She keeps improving," Spawr said. "She's happy, her coat looks better, and she keeps putting on weight. It makes her easier to train."

Market Garden may not go favored in a competitive race. As a stalker, she will have company from Western Hemisphere, the winner of the Fleet Treat Stakes over seven furlongs at Del Mar and the runner-up in the Grade 2 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park in June.

Western Hemisphere has been entered in the Distaff because her stablemate Yearly Report starts in the $150,000 Matron earlier in the day. Trainer Bob Baffert and Golden Eagle Farm, which owns both of the 3-year-old fillies, wanted to keep them apart.

"I didn't really have a choice," Baffert said of the placement of Western Hemisphere. "She's doing pretty good. She's a fast filly."

The Distaff may be the last California Cup appearance for Icantgoforthat, who has won 7 of 34 starts and $472,484. She may be retired this winter.

Last year, Icantgoforthat was fourth in the Distaff after challenging for the early lead. She has won two stakes in the last year, the Grade 3 Monrovia on the hillside turf course and the Daisycutter, in which she finished three-quarters of a length in front of Market Garden.

"Who is going to be the pace?" said Steve Knapp, who trains Icantgoforthat. "We're going to go full out."

Alphabet Kisses, who has yet to start on the hillside turf course, and Jetinto Houston, a minor stakes winner at Bay Meadows last month, could join Icantgoforthat on the front.

Trained by Marty Jones, Alphabet Kisses was second in the Fleet Treat Stakes and third in the one-mile Torrey Pines Stakes at Del Mar. She led or disputed the lead in both of those starts.

Jetinto Houston has won two stakes on dirt, but has yet to start on turf.

A speedy scenario is ideal for Market Garden. She won a $40,000 claimer on the hillside turf course last March and closed from off the pace to finish third in a one-mile race on turf earlier this year.

"She can be anywhere you want," Spawr said. "If Icantgoforthat takes the lead, it sets up for us. The distance hits her right between the eyes."

The field

California Cup Distaff
Purse: $150,000; about 6 1/2 furlongs (turf)

PPHORSEJOCKEYWT.ODDS
1IcantgoforthatG. Gomez11912-1
2Free ChinaD. Sorenson11130-1
3Market GardenT. Baze1193-1
4Bold RobertaO. Figueroa11720-1
5Alphabet KissesG. Stevens1149-2
6Jazz YaV. Espinoza114 6-1
7Lady GeneralA. Bisono11310-1
8Jetinto HoustonR.R. Douglas11812-1
9Western HemisphereC. Nakatani1192-1
10The Yellow SheetD. Flores11515-1
11Our MangoR. Baze11530-1
12Cyber SlewJ. Court11720-1

* Odds by Michael Hammersly