04/10/2012 2:27PM

Santa Anita: Potential turf standouts meeting over a mile

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ARCADIA, Calif. – The 3-year-olds not bound for Triple Crown races will be the focus of Thursday’s eight-race program at Santa Anita.

The maiden race winner Achilles and the recent Florida shipper Ransom Canyon are the two leading contenders in an optional claimer over a mile on turf for 3-year-olds. They could develop into horses to follow in turf stakes later this year, particularly when that division has ample opportunities at Del Mar.

Achilles, a colt by Smart Strike, won his debut in a one-mile maiden race on turf here on March 10. Ridden by Joe Talamo, Achilles closed from last in a field of seven to win by a head over No Silent. “He’s done well since he’s run,” trainer Neil Drysdale said on Tuesday. “He’s improved since that race.”

Brother Francis, third in that race, was graded stakes-placed at 2, and finished fifth in the Santa Anita Derby last Saturday.

Achilles is owned by Peachtree Stable. Purchased for $140,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling Sale, Achilles is out of Solvig, a multiple stakes winner who finished fourth in the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Belmont Park.

Ransom Canyon has run twice. After winning a maiden race on turf in his debut at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 2, Ransom Canyon was fourth in an optional claimer for 3-year-olds on turf at Gulfstream Park on March 11, closing from fifth to lose by three-quarters of a length.

Trained by Tom Proctor, who recently sent a division to Southern California, Ransom Canyon has drawn the outside post in a field of six.

The field includes one colt who placed in a graded stakes last year and one European shipper.

Brigand, trained by Bob Baffert, was second in the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship last July. He is winless in four starts since a maiden race at Hollywood Park last summer, and makes his first start around two turns in Thursday’s optional claimer. Brigand was sixth in the Baffle Stakes on the hillside turf course in his first start on that surface on Feb. 26.

Press Baron had mixed results in England last year. He was fourth at 66-1 in a maiden race on turf at Newmarket last October and returned to win a minor maiden race on the synthetic track at Wolverhampton two weeks later.

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