03/06/2013 2:56PM

Santa Anita: Italian Rules returns off of win, claim in Friday sprint

Shigeki Kikkawa
Italian Rules will make his first start for trainer Bill Spawr on Friday at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – In recent years, trainer Bill Spawr has kept an eye on the veteran horse Italian Rules as a potential rival for his champion sprinter Amazombie.

“I always respected him,” Spawr said. “In the Cal-bred races, I thought he’d be a horse to beat.”

When a group of Spawr’s clients asked him to claim the 8-year-old Italian Rules last month, the trainer was ready.

“The owners picked the horse out and I said, ‘I love him,’ ” Spawr said.

Italian Rules was claimed for $40,000 on Feb. 2. Friday, Italian Rules makes his first start for owners Tom Acker, Lori Allen, Fred Carillo, and Jon Lindo in an optional claimer over six furlongs at Santa Anita.

“He’s a good-feeling horse,” Spawr said. “We were taking a chance. He’s an 8-year-old. We rolled the dice for $40,000.”

Italian Rules, entered to be claimed for $62,500 on Friday, has won 9 of 27 starts and $443,180. He won the Feb. 2 race, closing from third in a field of 11 to prevail by a half-length as the 5-2 favorite. The optional claimer was the first start for Italian Rules since a last-place finish in a field of seven in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park last June.

Friday, Italian Rules will be ridden by regular jockey Kevin Krigger and is part of a field of eight. Italian Rules is the only horse in the field that won his last start.

American Act, winner of the Harry Henson Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf last April, returns from a layoff of nearly 10 months. Trained by Jack Carava for Howard and Janet Siegel, American Act was not injured, but needed a rest.

“He’d been running so hard that he was tired and worn out,” Carava said. “He didn’t train with enthusiasm. He wanted to take care of himself.”

Carava said that American Act underwent a nuclear scan and X-rays, which revealed no injury.

“He was not lame,” he said. “We gave him four months off and went slow bringing him back. I let him sleepwalk through most of his early works and I gave him some company in his last work.”

The race is likely to have a fast pace due to the presence of Castletown, third in an optional claimer over 6 1/2 furlongs Jan. 12, and Saddleranch, unraced since last April.