02/03/2006 1:00AM

Race loses some luster

Benoit & Associates
With Distinction, whose best races have come in sprints, will try to last 1 1/8 miles Sunday.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The key prep for the Santa Anita Handicap will be run without the division's key players.

Super Frolic would have been favored in the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita on Sunday, but went back to Florida for the Grade 1 Donn Handicap. Badge of Silver briefly inherited San Antonio favoritism, but he went back to the sidelines with a foot abscess.

As a result, the field for the San Antonio dwindled to obscurity. Buckland Manor, who has gone two years without winning on dirt, and With Distinction, who has gone an entire career without winning around two turns, are highweights in San Antonio field.

Nine entered the 1 1/8-mile stakes, and is likely to start favored after finishing second by a nose in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap. The horse that beat him, High Limit, was scheduled to start Saturday in the Strub Stakes. Buckland Manor has won 6 of 21 for trainer Paco Gonzalez, but has not won on dirt since Dec. 26, 2003.

That blemish is minimal compared to , a sprinter whose resume includes a recent win in the Grade 2 El Conejo Handicap at 5 1/2 furlongs. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is convinced the 6-for-22 colt can stay, even though five previous starts around two turns produced only a single runner-up finish.

The defection of Badge of Silver boosts With Distinction's chances, and from the inside post he may set the pace. His most recent start, last in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes, was a toss.

"He got down inside and didn't like it," Lukas said of the sprint.

Richard Mandella starts Spellbinder and Turnbolt, third and fourth, respectively, in the San Pasqual. Spellbinder, 4 for 17 lifetime, looked beaten at the eighth pole, but kept grinding and missed by a half-length.

"He was going to win if they'd gone a little further," Mandella said.

Two possible factors accounted for the fourth-place finish by Turnbolt, a winner of 3 of 9 starts, in the San Pasqual, including the notion that he prefers one turn.

"He's only had one two-turn race; he could get better," Mandella said, adding that he believes Turnbolt was compromised by the footing. "The track was pretty heavy inside."

was cross-entered in the Strub on Saturday and the San Antonio on Sunday. Trainer Craig Dollase was happier with post 5 for the San Antonio than the 12 in the Strub, but as of Friday was still uncertain which race to choose.