02/22/2012 3:40PM

Santa Anita: Game On Dude not scaring rivals for Big Cap

Shigeki Kikkawa
Despite this romp in the Grade 2 San Antonio in his comeback, Game On Dude will probably have nine opponents in the Santa Anita Handicap.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 3 is likely to have a double-digit field.

As of Wednesday, there were 10 probable starters for the Grade 1 race over 1 1/4 miles, a group led by defending champion Game On Dude. Trained by Bob Baffert, Game On Dude was second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November and won his 2012 debut in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 5.

Even with his presence, there is no shortage of challengers. The other candidates are Boxeur des Rues, Fiddlers Afleet, Gladding, Holladay Road, Ron the Greek, Setsuko, Twice the Appeal, Uh Oh Bango, and Ultimate Eagle.

Setsuko was second in the 2011 Santa Anita Handicap, a roughly run race that Game On Dude won by a nose. Setsuko was gelded last fall and won an optional claimer by 2 1/4 lengths over Fiddlers Afleet on Feb. 4, his first start of the year.

Owned by Marc Ferrell, Fiddlers Afleet, who was entered for a $40,000 claiming price in the Feb. 4 race, won the 2009 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park when trained by Michael Hushion. The Santa Anita Handicap will be his first start in a Grade 1 race, a challenge worth trying, trainer Peter Eurton said.

“He’ll run all day,” Eurton said. “His gallop out against Setsuko was nice. I hope he can improve.”

Eurton said he did not have a jockey selected for Fiddlers Afleet, preferring to wait until Saturday when weights are published.

Mensa Heat hoping for duel upfront in San Carlos

The seven-furlong distance of Saturday’s $200,000 San Carlos Stakes is an ideal fit for Mensa Heat, the veteran 6-year-old gelding.

What will be tougher is the competition in the field of six, which includes Amazombie, the reigning champion sprinter, and The Factor, winner of the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes over seven furlongs on Dec. 26.

Trainer Ted H. West is banking on The Factor having company on the front in the San Carlos to help the chances of a closer such as Mensa Heat.

“He likes to come from off of it,” he said. “Hopefully, two or three will hook up.”

The field also includes Canonize, Rothko, and Sway Away. None of them are confirmed front-runners.

The San Carlos may be Mensa Heat’s final sprint for the foreseeable future. West would like to try the two-time stakes winner around two turns this spring.