04/01/2011 5:18PM

Santa Anita: Headley in the hunt for a seventh Potrero Grande

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ARCADIA, Calif. – At 77, Bruce Headley admits to moving a little slower. His days of exercising horses and riding ponies are long behind him, replaced by mornings spent mostly at his Santa Anita barn.

Occasionally, he goes trackside to watch some of the 46 horses he has in training undergo workouts or gallops. The life of a man known for an active lifestyle has changed in recent years.

“I feel all right,” he said on a recent morning at his stable. “I’ll never be the same.”

He said he has rheumatism “like any old man. If you ride 20 horses a day, something will happen. I stay here at the barn quite a bit.”

While his stable is not a factor in the trainer standings this year, his place in Santa Anita history is secure with 360 wins in the history of the winter-spring meeting, 17th on the all-time list.

Headley has won the Potrero Grande Stakes for sprinters a record six times, a mark that could easily go to seven when M One Rifle makes his 2011 debut in Sunday’s $150,000 running of the race over 6 1/2 furlongs.

The Potrero Grande has drawn a strong field. Underestimating the chances of a Headley horse returning from a layoff can be dangerous, though. “When I go for a big race, I train them for a big race,” Headley said.

Headley wanted to give M One Rifle a prep race, but a suitable race failed to fill. Instead, M One Rifle, 5, was given a six-furlong workout in company in 1:09.80 on March 13.

“We put two or three horses in front of him,” Headley said.

M One Rifle has won 4 of 11 starts and $405,872 for a partnership. So far, the highlight of his career is a win in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes here in December 2009. Last year, M One Rifle was winless in three starts and was turned out last summer after a fourth in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park.

A gelding, M One Rifle needs to accomplish more to join the list of great sprinters that Headley has trained such as Kona Gold, the 2000 champion sprinter; or the multiple stakes winners Kalookan Queen, Lakota Brave, or Son of a Pistol.

“He’s the best 3-year-old sprinter I’ve ever had,” Headley said. “I’d never won the Malibu before. He’s working like the great sprinters that I’ve had.

“He’s grown up. He’s taller and more mature.”

In coming months, Headley has two other sprint prospects he is anxious to start in Nine M Baretta and Octane. He oversees the stable with the help of his adult daughter Karen, who has spent her life working alongside her father.