03/27/2012 1:16PM

Santa Anita: Fire With Fire makes first start for hot Drysdale

Barbara D. Livingston
Fire With Fire makes his first start for trainer Neil Drysdale on Thursday at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Hot trainer Neil Drysdale hits restart Thursday at Santa Anita, where comebacker Fire With Fire makes his California debut on the same course that last week produced three Drysdale victories, including Grade 2 wins by Bourbon Bay and Vamo a Galupiar.

Fire With Fire’s main challengers in the race 7 feature are dropping from Grade 1 races into the second-level allowance at nine furlongs on grass – likely favorite Holladay Road finished fourth in the Big Cap; Massone finished sixth in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile.

Holladay Road has won three of his last five starts, while Massone has earned $531,342, despite winning just 2 of 31. While their attributes are obvious, Fire With Fire enters with an element of uncertainty.

Purchased at the Keeneland November 2011 breeding stock sale, Fire With Fire has not raced since finishing sixth for trainer Bill Mott in a Keeneland allowance race in October. Fire With Fire has been working well, according to Drysdale. But the trainer cautioned that the Thursday allowance is merely a starting point, and the distance is longer than he would have preferred.

“I’m very pleased with him . . . he might need a run,” Drysdale said. “And he’s starting off at nine [furlongs]. I’d be more comfortable at a mile.”

Sired by Distorted Humor and a half-brother to multiple Grade 3 winner Cosmonaut, the 4-year-old Fire With Fire has won 2 of 8.

After he was purchased for $140,000, he was castrated.

“We thought he’d be better as a gelding,” Drysdale said.

Fire With Fire is owned by David Heerensperger.

Leading rider Joel Rosario will be aboard Fire With Fire, whose two most recent turf starts were decisive victories in summer 2011. He won a maiden race at Belmont and followed with a first-level allowance at Saratoga.

While the interloper might need a prep race, the familiar locals Holladay Road and Massone already are at the top of their game. Holladay Road was claimed last summer for $25,000 by Julio Canani and has since earned $196,140.

Winner of the $100,000 Crystal Water in January, Holladay Road broke slowly in the March 3 Santa Anita Handicap, trailed the first half, and then finished steadily for fourth while beaten five lengths. A gelding by Street Cry out of a dam that has produced four stakes winners, Holladay Road, owned by Gary and Wendy Broad, will be ridden by Garrett Gomez.

Massone was never a factor March 3 in the Kilroe, but his close third-place finish Feb. 4 in the Grade 3 Arcadia puts him squarely in the hunt. Tim Yakteen trains the 6-year-old, who has placed in eight stakes. His most recent win was 18 starts ago on Aug. 19, 2009.

The turf rails are at their outermost 30 feet Thursday. Other starters include Ten Devils, Tippety Tap Tap, Hurricane Lake, Barney Rebel, and Glowing Spirit.