03/09/2006 1:00AM

Racketeer bred to love two turns


NEW YORK - Santa Anita has the spotlight again Saturday as the Grade 1, $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap is the biggest race on the national stakes schedule. The other graded stakes on Saturday are the $175,000 Azeri Breeders' Cup Stakes at Oaklawn Park and the $100,000 Toboggan Handicap at Aqueduct. Both are Grade 3 events.

California Derby

Cause to Believe, with a win last time out in the El Camino Real Derby and having never finished worse than second in eight career starts, is the marquee horse in this feature at Golden Gate Fields. But Cause to Believe will be opposed this time by some interesting shippers from Southern California. And the gap in ability between northern California-based 3-year-olds and their Southern California counterparts was illustrated last week when Objective, whom Cause to Believe was hard pressed to deny in the El Camino Real Derby, came back to be a badly beaten eighth in last Saturday's Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita.

With that in mind, Racketeer, one of the Southern California shippers, is the firm play, even though he doesn't figure to be much of a price. Racketeer's two races this year, both at Santa Anita, were his first two starts on dirt and first outings with blinkers, and were sharp efforts. In the first of those, he won a hot maiden event, a race from which the second and third finishers came back to win their next start. Most recently, Racketeer finished third in a strong and quickly run allowance race. A duplicate of either of those performances would make Racketeer a kick in the pants Saturday. But there is reason to expect even better from him. Both of Racketeer's races this year were at six furlongs. Being by Awesome Again from a Skip Trial mare, he should relish the added distance and the stretch-out to two turns.

Santa Margarita Invitational

With decisive victories in her last two starts on dirt, both of which resulted in triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures, Star Parade is certainly the mare to beat in this race. But I'm going to try and do just that with Seafree.

Seafree doesn't have the Beyer Figures that Star Parade has. And when she won the La Canada Stakes last time out, Seafree did come home slowly. But there was good reason for that. Seafree disputed a very fast early pace in the La Canada, so it is to her credit that she not only survived the speed duel, but also went on to score in clear-cut fashion to gain the distinction of being the only member of this field to have won at this 1 1/8-mile distance. Most important, Seafree should have a much easier go of it on the front end this time. Star Parade, Dream of Summer, and Healthy Addiction all have positional speed. But Seafree can outrun them early without having to expend nearly as much energy as she did early in the La Canada. That should make her a tougher customer in the stretch, and could result in a breakthrough performance.

Toboggan Handicap

The main event at Aqueduct drew a field of only six, but it is an interesting betting race, and it lured a horse in Primary Suspect who at times in his career has threatened to become a very good sprinter.

Primary Suspect is 5 now, so maybe it's foolish to still be waiting for him to fulfill his potential. He also has not raced in 10 months, and his trainer, Mark Hennig, is batting .000 with horses coming off layoffs of 180 or more days. I like Primary Suspect anyway.

In regard to his long absence, Primary Suspect does sport a steady workout line at Gulfstream. Primary Suspect won his career debut by almost 11 lengths, and won a tough allowance race last winter at Gulfstream off a layoff, so he has proven he can win off workouts. Primary Suspect is a stalker, so with two speed horses to his inside, he should fall into a good trip. And in his only prior attempt on the inner track, he won this race last year, with a solid Beyer of 107.


Aqueduct: Toboggan Handicap
3 and up, 6 Furlongs

Approximate post: Eastern-4:21 p.m., Central-3:21 p.m., Mountain-2:21 p.m., Pacific-1:21 p.m.; Ozone Park, N. Y., forecast: Sunny, 60¦

2Bishop Court Hill10498882-1
3Primary Suspect75901075-2
4Banjo Picker94948720-1
5High Blitz102981063-1
6Wild Jam9995927-2

Odds by Art Gropper

Santa Anita: Santa Margarita INVTL. Handicap
Fillies and Mares, 4 and up, 1 1/8 Miles

Approximate post: E-7:00 p.m., C-6:00 p.m., M-5:00 p.m., P-4:00 p.m.; Arcadia, Ca., forecast: Rain showers, 52¦

1Dream of Summer8297994-1
3Healthy Addiction9493128-1
4Santa Candida73878130-1
5Star Parade103771045-2
6Play Ballado9192938-1
7Hollywood Story9570998-1
8Bending Strings631069112-1
10Awesome Lady91348630-1

Odds by Michael Hammersly

Golden Gate Fields: California Derby
3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles

Approximate post: E-7:15 p.m., C-6:15 p.m., M-5:15 p.m., P-4:15 p.m.; Berkeley, Ca., forecast: Partly cloudy, 52¦

1Sinister Minister55102735-1
2Sky Diving8691574-1
3Passive Income86747110-1
5Cause to Believe9292876-5
6Pop Icon52--30-1
7The Five J's83798712-1

Odds by Michael Hammersly