01/18/2012 5:04PM

Santa Anita: Norvsky will test stamina in San Marcos

Benoit & Associates
After winning the San Gabriel, Norvsky will attempt 1 1/4 miles for the first time in next month's San Marcos.

Norvsky won the most prestigious race of his career in Monday’s Grade 2 San Gabriel Stakes at Santa Anita. He will try for the longest win of his career in the $150,000 San Marcos Stakes over 1 1/4 miles on turf on Feb. 11, trainer Don Warren said.

Warren has expressed concern about Norvsky’s ability to run beyond 1 1/8 miles in the past, particularly after a fifth behind Sanagas in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup over 1 1/2 miles on Nov. 19. But the course layout for the San Marcos, and the way that Norvsky finished the San Gabriel Stakes over 1 1/8 miles, has made the Feb. 11 race worth a try.

“The first eighth is downhill,” Warren said of the San Marcos start. “Where else are you going to run? He loves the grass. We can try [distances] progressively and see if he can do a mile-and-a-quarter.”

In the San Gabriel, Norvsky closed from fifth in a field of six to beat the multiple graded stakes winners Jeranimo and The Usual Q.T. Before the San Gabriel, Norvsky’s biggest win was the California Cup Classic at Santa Anita in October.

“I’m still surprised that he beat those horses,” Warren said. “Maybe he caught the two off guard.”

Norvsky races for a partnership that includes breeders Bud and Judy Johnston. They also own the Warren-trained Acclamation, who was honored on Monday as the nation’s outstanding older male of 2011. Acclamation, who won such races as the Pacific Classic at Del Mar and the Charles Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood Park last year, is currently jogging at Santa Anita. Warren said a return to racing in the spring is likely.

In the San Marcos, Norvsky may have a rematch with Sanagas, who worked five furlongs in 58.60 seconds at Hollywood Park on Wednesday, the fastest of 17 recorded works at the distance.

A German-bred, Sanagas was trained by Maryland-based Graham Motion when he won the Hollywood Turf Cup. He has since been purchased privately by a partnership and transferred to Peter Miller in California. Miller has been impressed with Sanagas’s development in recent weeks. Wednesday’s workout under jockey Joel Rosario was quicker than expected, he said.

“It wasn’t by design,” Miller said. “He worked a little faster than we wanted.”

Sanagas is expected to have three starts at Santa Anita at the current winter-spring meeting, including the $150,000 San Luis Rey Stakes over 1 1/2 miles on turf on March 18 and the $150,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap over about 1 3/4 miles on turf on April 22.

The current plan is for Sanagas to go into quarantine in the spring for a trip to Australia. The Melbourne Cup in November is a long-term goal. “I was very excited, to say the least, to get a horse like him in my barn,” Miller said.