03/14/2012 12:46PM

Santa Anita: Consulado cuts back to sprint after two-turn experiment

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ARCADIA, Calif. – Mike Puype had to try. Doesn’t every trainer at this time of year with a promising 3-year-old?

Even though Puype’s instincts were that Consulado is probably best around one turn at this point in time, he gave Consulado a chance to prove otherwise in a one-mile allowance race last month at Santa Anita. And while Consulado was far from disgraced, finishing second to the promising Fed Biz, there was nothing about the effort that made Puype want to try it again this spring.

“He didn’t put up any resistance,” Puype said. “Nine times out of 10 when that happens, it means you’re going the wrong distance.”

So, on Friday at Santa Anita, Consulado returns to a sprint, taking one step back before taking the next step forward. Consulado heads the day’s fourth race, a seven-furlong optional claimer for 3-year-olds that drew a surprisingly deep field, including two stakes-placed runners, Brigand and Night Tide, from Bob Baffert’s seemingly never-ending supply. The only horse entered for the $80,000 claiming price is Senor Rain.

Consulado is the horse to beat, based on his terrific victory against maidens going 6 1/2 furlongs Jan. 7. He drew a favorable post, No. 7 in a field of eight, from which he should get an ideal trip under his regular rider, David Flores.

“It’s a great draw,” Puype said. “He should get a clear trip. There’s no Derby trail for him. He didn’t run badly last time, but Fed Biz was superior. Sprints are absolutely what he’s best for now. He’s very talented. He does things very easily in his workouts.

“After this, I’d look at something like the Harry Henson at Hollywood Park, and down the line I’d like to try to stretch him out again, maybe in a race like the Oceanside on turf at Del Mar. He’s by More Than Ready, and they all run on grass.”

Brigand moves back to the main track following a sixth-place finish in a downhill turf sprint Feb. 26, his first race since August. Last summer, he was second in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship.

Night Tide, third in the Hollywood Juvenile, has not raced since finishing fifth of six in the Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 7. He showed last year that he can run well fresh by winning his debut at Hollywood Park.

Hierro seeks to rebound following a disappointing effort in the Jan. 7 Sham Stakes, in which he finished last in a field of five in his first try around two turns. He was a romping winner against maidens at Churchill Downs last fall going seven furlongs. Hierro worked an easy half-mile in 51.40 seconds on Thursday morning at Santa Anita for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Hodge also should appreciate a return to a sprint and to dirt, after fading to finish fourth of seven on Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields in the California Derby on Jan. 14. He was third in the seven-furlong Hollywood Prevue last fall after defeating maidens sprinting at Santa Anita in early November.