02/09/2007 12:00AM

San Vicente shapes up a scramble


ARCADIA, Calif. - The defection of unbeaten E Z Warrior from the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes with a sore foot has transformed the $150,000 sprint into a glorified allowance race.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. Seven 3-year-olds race seven furlongs in the San Vicente, with the top four contenders still eligible for the first allowance condition - Major Pleasure, Noble Court, Spanish Influence, and Hurry Up Austin.

Major Pleasure scored an impressive maiden win Jan. 21 in his second start, and trainer Mike Puype originally planned to run him back in a nonwinners of one-other-than allowance.

"I had no inclination of running [in the San Vicente]," Puype said. "But now, how can I not run?"

The 92 Beyer Figure that Major Pleasure earned in a seven-furlong maiden race ties for the top figure in the San Vicente. Comfortably drawn in post 6, Major Pleasure should get a good trip under Victor Espinoza. Puype is confident.

"He's strong, he's fit," Puype said. "He breezed really well," going five furlongs on Feb. 4.

His main rival is Noble Court, who also originally planned to skip the San Vicente. Noble Court followed a Dec. 9 maiden win with a creditable third-place finish Jan. 7 in the San Miguel Stakes, won by E Z Warrior. Noble Court's trainer, John Sadler, planned to give Noble Court more time between starts.

"It was a really highly rated race," Sadler said. "You don't want to run them back too quick, but he worked really well."

Front-runner Spanish Influence drew the outside post, and fits if his grass form holds up on dirt. Based on pedigree, it should. Spanish Influence was sired by Petionville and is out of dam that is a half-sister to Andujar, a graded stakes winner on dirt. Spanish Influence led gate to wire last out in a downhill sprint.

Hurry Up Austin finished second in the San Miguel last time out in the best effort of his nine-race career. He is 1 for 9 and a threat from just off the pace.

The other three are longshots. Half Famous shortens to one turn after fading in the Gradeo2 San Rafael at one mile. European import Vaunt has never raced on dirt. Law Breaker has never raced in a sprint.