02/21/2013 3:27PM

Santa Anita: Midnight Transfer wants fast pace to chase in San Carlos Stakes


ARCADIA, Calif. – Midnight Transfer has shown hints in his brief career that he can be effective as a sprinter and a miler. It would be ideal if he were a little bit of both for Saturday’s $200,000 San Carlos Stakes over seven furlongs at Santa Anita.

“I just hope he’s good at seven-eighths,” trainer Carla Gaines said.

Owned by Warren Williamson, Midnight Transfer left Gaines confident for Saturday’s race after he won an optional claimer over 6 1/2 furlongs Jan. 12, his first start in more than nine months. Midnight Transfer closed from fifth in a field of seven to score by a convincing 1  1/2 lengths.

“It was perfect,” Gaines said. “When he came back into the winner’s circle, he didn’t take a deep breath.”

Midnight Transfer, 4, may need another perfect race to win the Grade 2 San Carlos, which has drawn a field of eight. The field includes the multiple stakes winner Comma to the Top, who is expected to set the pace; The Lumber Guy and Justin Phillip, who were second and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint here in November; and Sahara Sky, winner of the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Stakes over six furlongs Jan. 19.

Midnight Transfer has won 3 of 8 starts and $168,050. The winner of the San Pedro Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters last year, he was seventh in the Santa Anita Derby in his final start of 2012.

[SANTA ANITA: Get PPs, watch video previews of Saturday's stakes]

His chances Saturday rely largely on a quick pace developing in the first half of the San Carlos.

“There was a lot of pace in front of him the other day, so that worked out well,” Gaines said.

Sahara Sky has a similar running style. A 5-year-old trained and co-owned by Jerry Hollendorfer, Sahara Sky won his first stakes in the Palos Verdes in a 21-1 upset. His development has been a pleasant surprise for Hollendorfer.

“I never thought he’d be a graded stakes winner,” Hollendorfer said. “We thought he could be a really nice horse, if we spaced his races.

“We’re very pleased with the way he’s been training. I think he’ll run his race.”

The Palos Verdes was Sahara Sky’s first start since a third in an allowance race at Betfair Hollywood Park last June.

Much of the race tactics depend on whether Comma to the Top faces early pressure, possibly from The Lumber Guy. In the Palos Verdes, Comma to the Top fought for the early lead with Private Zone and faded to finish four lengths behind Sahara Sky.

Trainer Peter Miller said that Comma to the Top had a warm foot in the build-up to that race.

“His foot had been an issue in the week before the race,” Miller said. “I think it was still bugging him, and he didn’t run his race. He’s doing well now.”

Miller thinks Comma to the Top could be dangerous, if left alone in the San Carlos.

“It looks like we’re the speed of the race,” Miller said. “There is no Private Zone. It should be a lot softer pace scenario than last time.”