02/24/2005 1:00AM

San Carlos boils down to who will go


ARCADIA, Calif. - The list of entrants for Saturday's $150,000 at Santa Anita may differ significantly from those that start.

Stakes winners Choctaw Nation and Mass Media have been entered, but on Thursday their trainers said they are far from certain to run in the seven-furlong sprint.

Their absence would rob the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap of two quality horses. Choctaw Nation won the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap last summer; Mass Media won the Grade 3 Sport Page Handicap at Aqueduct last fall.

The San Carlos would be Choctaw Nation's first start since he ran fourth in the $1 million Pacific Classic last August. Trainer Jeff Mullins said that before deciding to start Choctaw Nation he will consider "the weather, the draw, and how I feel that morning."

"He'll probably need a race," Mullins added. "We'll make sure it's a good spot."

Trainer Bobby Frankel said he'll decide on Saturday whether to start Mass Media, who finished second in the San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes on Jan. 15. Frankel decided against entering Cajun Beat, the 2003 Breeders' Cup Sprint winner, who is being pointed for the Frank Kilroe Mile on turf on March 5 instead of the San Carlos.

If Mass Media and Choctaw Nation do not run, the San Carlos would have as many as six starters, and Hasty Kris and Harvard Avenue would have excellent chances to win.

Mullins will have a horse in the San Carlos in Sinister G, the winner of the Grade 2 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park last year. He is winless in four subsequent starts.

Hasty Kris, a winner of 8 of 41 starts and $481,197, has won 2 of his last 4 starts, both for optional claimers. Hasty Kris, 8, could have been taken for $80,000 or $100,000 in those starts.

"Whether he's good enough or not is the question," trainer John Sadler said.

Harvard Avenue was third in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes over seven furlongs on Dec. 26, rallying from seventh to finish a half-length behind Rock Hard Ten. He then finished seventh in the San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 15.

"He's probably just a long sprinter," trainer Doug O'Neill said. "He needs to break, relax, and make a run."

O'Neill also will start Perfect Moon, who was fourth in the Malibu and fifth in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Handicap on Jan. 23. Perfect Moon is winless in four starts since September. "If he can make an easy lead, he'll be tough," O'Neill said.