02/21/2008 12:00AM

San Luis Obispo figures wide open


ARCADIA, Calif. - The absence of division leader Champs Elysees from Saturday's $150,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap at Santa Anita has left the turf race without a standout.

But it has become an excellent betting race.

Defending champion Obrigado is back, but is winless in his last seven starts. Spring House, third in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup in December, will attempt to win his second stakes in the last year. He won the Grade 3 Carleton Burke Handicap in October, over the same course and 1 1/2-mile distance as the San Luis Obispo.

While trainer Bobby Frankel is pointing Champs Elysees to the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 1, he will be represented in the San Luis Obispo - by Porfido and the European import Sudan.

Porfido won an optional claimer by three lengths on Jan. 18, ending an 11-race losing streak dating back to the 2006 Chilean Derby.

Sudan is Frankel's best chance. Owned by Gary Tanaka, Sudan's lone stakes win came in the Gran Premio di Milano over 1 1/2 miles on turf last June. He was last of 10 in a stakes in Sweden in September, his only subsequent start.

"He's not 100 percent, but he's doing pretty good," Frankel said. "He ran with some good horses over there. If he runs his best race, he should win."

Two horses that finished behind Champs Elysees - Rocket Legs and Spring House - can play major roles in the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo.

Rocket Legs finished second to Champs Elysees in the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes on Jan. 19, the stakes debut for the 4-year-old colt. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Rocket Legs has been first or second in his last five starts, all at distances of 1 1/8 miles or farther.

Spring House was considered for the San Marcos, but trainer Julio Canani opted to wait for the San Luis Obispo.

"I wanted to skip one," Canani said. "I won't run him in every race that comes up. It's the beginning of the year."

Canani was frustrated by Spring House's third in the Turf Cup, wondering if a wide trip cost the gelding a chance to finish closer to the first two finishers, Sunriver and Champs Elysees.