04/16/2008 11:00PM

San Juan Capistrano needs lift


ARCADIA, Calif. - The $250,000 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap on Sunday has drawn a field of eight, including Shamdinan, the runner-up in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Turf at Monmouth Park, and defending champion On the Acorn.

Their presence may not be enough to restore the race to a Grade 1 status, a distinction the race lost after its 2003 running. A bigger purse could be the answer, and will be discussed before the 2008-09 winter-spring stakes schedule is final, according to director of racing Mike Harlow.

"We'll have to look at a way to get the race back to a Grade 1 status," Harlow said. "We'll do something. We have to do something with this particular category of horse."

Harlow says the development of the $500,000 Breeders' Cup Dirt Marathon may lead to a push for more prize money and opportunities for horses running longer distances on both surfaces. The Marathon, at 1o1/2 miles on the main track, will be run for the first time this year when the Breeders' Cup is held at Santa Anita.

Earlier at this meeting, Santa Anita ran the Tokyo City Handicap at a distance of 1 1/2 miles for the first time. In past years, the race was run over 1 1/8 miles.

"Hopefully, we can create more stars for these kind of races," Harlow said. "If you look throughout the country, as far as the inventory of these kind of horses is concerned, I don't think there is a deep category."

Unfortunately for Santa Anita, Sunday's Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano did not attract the winners of three turf marathon stakes from earlier at this meeting.

The presence of Champs Elysees, who won the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes in January, or Spring House, the winner of Grade 2 San Luis Obispo in February, or Boule d'Or, the winner of the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap on March 22, would give the race much needed depth.

Champs Elysees, third in the $1omillion Santa Anita Handicap in his main-track debut on March 1, is being considered for two turf stakes at the Hollywood Park meeting - the $250,000 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on May 10 or the $300,000 Charles Whittingham Handicap over 1 1/4 miles on June 7.

Trainer Bobby Frankel is also considering a return to the main track for Champs Elysees in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on June 28.

He quickly dismissed running Champs Elysees in the San Juan because of the distance and the race's status as a Grade 2.

"I don't want to run him that far," he said. "If it was a Grade 1, I might take a shot. I want to have him for the rest of the year."

Spring House was sent to Dubai where he finished last in the $5 million Sheema Classic over 1 1/2 miles on turf. Boule d'Or is being pointed for the Jim Murray, trainer Jeff Mullins said earlier this week.

The Sheema Classic and Jim Murray have developed into alternatives for the sort of horse that runs in the San Juan Capistrano.

"The competition is rough," Harlow said.

Brother Derek returns Sunday

Sunday is the closing day of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting. The 11-race program includes a $68,000 allowance race over a mile featuring the return of Brother Derek, the winner of the 2006 Santa Anita Derby.

Brother Derek has not started since finishing third in the Grade 2 Strub Stakes here in February 2007. He was sidelined for the rest of the year with an ankle injury. Brother Derek was withdrawn from an allowance race on March 28 after he developed a quarter crack.

The Hollywood Park spring-summer meet begins Wednesday, with the $100,000 Wilshire Handicap at a mile on turf for fillies and mares. The race may draw Diamond Diva, winner of the American Beauty Handicap at Santa Anita on March 30.

Seminole Native injured

Seminole Native, who finished third in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic here in January, is out of training for at least three months after suffering a non-displaced condylar fracture in a recent turf workout, trainer Jorge Gutierrez said.

Seminole Native was being considered for the $150,000 Khaled Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on turf at Hollywood Park on April 27 when the injury occurred.

"It's a good prognosis," Gutierrez said.

Surf Cat going longer

Surf Cat, a multiple stakes winner, has seen the last of sprints for awhile. After winning the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap over seven furlongs in February and finishing second in the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Handicap over 6 1/2 furlongs on April 6, Surf Cat will make his next start in the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap over 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park April 26, trainer Bruce Headley said.

A winner of 8 of 17 starts and $835,420, Surf Cat won the 2006 Mervyn LeRoy, which was the last of three consecutive stakes wins that year for him.