03/05/2004 12:00AM

Rail dampens West's enthusiasm

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The trainer of the top sprinter in California was way too confident. Can you fault him? Bluesthestandard's workouts following an impressive comeback victory have been so strong that Ted H. West said Friday, "I'm really too confident for my own good."

returns Sunday at Santa Anita in the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap, a seven-furlong race in which West's confidence took a hit when Bluesthestandard drew a compromising post. Twelve entered the $150,000 race, and Bluesthestandard is buried on the rail. It turns out owner Jeffrey Sengara was prophetic when he said Friday "you're at the whim of the racing gods all the time."

Bluesthestandard, runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and winner of a Grade 2 sprint Feb. 1, will be favored despite his post. Bettors looking for an alternative to the 119-pound highweight will find several reasonable options. Marino Marini, runner-up twice this meet in graded sprints, is the most likely.

The San Carlos field also includes graded-stakes-winning comebackers ; allowance sprinters Casas Caballa, Amerindio, and Pico Central; and Captain Squire, Question, Kela, Pohave, and Eye of the Tiger.

The best horse in the race is Bluesthestandard, who earned Beyer Speed Figures of 114 and 113 his last two starts. The 7-year-old Bluesthestandard, a former $10,000 claimer, has won five races and $721,975 in 11 starts since Sengara claimed him for $50,000 in late 2002. "You know he's going to give you everything he's got," Sengara said. "He's not going to hold anything back."

In the five weeks since his most recent win, Bluesthestandard has posted three bullet workouts, including a 57.60-second drill six days ago. His main rival is the horse he ran down five weeks ago at six furlongs.

At seven furlongs Sunday, Marino Marini will be in front of the favorite. The longer distance may play in his favor.

"I tend to agree, because the early fractions tend to be a little softer," trainer Doug O'Neill said, adding that another key would be for "Bluesthestandard to run a lackluster race."

Marino Marini finished second to Southern Image in the Malibu Stakes on opening day.

O'Neill also starts Pohave, who returns to dirt and has run fast enough to compete in a graded stakes. Taste of Paradise has worked fast for his return, and makes his first start since joining trainer Jay Robbins. Publication, supplemented for $3,000, has run well fresh and might be the best finisher in the lineup.