01/18/2008 12:00AM

San Pedro a study in contrast

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Sea of Pleasure is on his way up, while Meal Penalty is on his way down.

They meet Sunday in the $75,000 San Pedro Stakes, a 6 1/2-furlong race for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita that also attracted lightly raced Gayego, and sharp debut winners Cardinal Zin and Waafi. Although nine entered, it might be a two-horse race.

Todd Pletcher trains Meal Penalty, who won two sprints at the Meadowlands and Keeneland before arriving at Hollywood Park. Third in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue at seven furlongs, Meal Penalty subsequently misfired in the Grade 1, 1 1/16-mile Cash Call Futurity. He broke from the outside post, became rank, pressed a hot pace, and faded.

"We're not convinced that he's not a router," Pletcher said, but he added that since Meal Penalty began his career winning two sprints, it makes sense to shorten up for the time being.

Although Meal Penalty is dropping from a Grade 1 into a non-graded stakes, the San Pedro often comes up strong. Recent winners include future graded-stakes winners Arson Squad, Swept Overboard, and Forestry.

The question facing Meal Penalty is whether he is good enough, or if he merely took advantage of soft competition his first two starts. Meal Penalty falls short on figures - the median Beyer Speed Figure of the last 10 San Pedro winners is 95, and Meal Penalty's career best is 82. Garrett Gomez rides.

Conversely, the sky is the limit for the Gary Stute-trained Sea of Pleasure. He returned from an eight-month layoff Dec. 7 and won an allowance at Hollywood by 2 1/2 lengths. Sea of Pleasure earned a Beyer Figure of 95, and benefits Sunday from the outside post.

The question facing the 2-for-2 Sea of Pleasure is whether he can reproduce his high figure while facing tougher. His comeback win came at the expense of favorite Slam Slew, who misfired and finished eighth.

If the favorites are upset, Gayego is the likely alternative. He destroyed maidens in his Nov. 18 debut, and then disappointed in a Dec. 28 allowance. Gayego broke slowly, raced greenly while climbing, was uncomfortable with the surface, finally took hold, and finished well for second. Paulo Lobo trains Gayego, who may only need a clean break.