12/21/2012 5:39PM

Santa Anita: With a race under his belt, Battle Force ready for Sir Beaufort

Shigeki Kikkawa
Sir Beaufort entrant Smart Ellis has had bad trips in two of his last three starts.

ARCADIA, Calif. – It took nearly a year to get Battle Force back to the races, but it appears the wait was worth it, because he comes into Santa Anita fresh, potentially primed for a breakout meeting, with the first chance to shine coming Wednesday in the Grade 2, $150,000 Sir Beaufort, part of a stakes tripleheader on the opening-day card.

The Sir Beaufort, for 3-year-olds at one mile on turf, was won last year by Mr. Commons. His trainer, John Shirreffs, and jockey, Mike Smith, team anew with Battle Force.

Battle Force raced three times at age  2, concluding with a third-place finish as the favorite in the Generous Stakes. But he did not race again for 356 days, when he was second in a first-level allowance at Betfair Hollywood Park on Nov. 17. That race was rained off the turf to the main track. Battle Force returns to his preferred surface on Wednesday, and, judging by his progress from his debut to his second start in 2011, figures to move forward.

“I was very happy with the way he ran,” Shirreffs said Friday, not long after Battle Force drew post 7 in a field of eight. “It was a tough race. He came home well. I think he’s coming into the Sir Beaufort very well.”

Shirreffs said there was nothing specifically wrong with Battle Force that caused the lengthy layoff. “We just gave him time hoping it would help him,” he said.

Did it?

“If you don’t give them time, you’ll never answer the question,” he said.

Big Bane Theory and Smart Ellis are in a softer spot after competing in the Hollywood Derby last time out. Big Bane Theory, who finished ninth of 14 in that race, beat a first-level allowance field on the Santa Anita turf in his previous start.

Smart Ellis has had nightmarish trips in two of his last three starts, including the Del Mar Derby. He was a good third behind Grandeur and Speaking of Which in the Twilight Derby over this course on Nov. 2.

The lightly raced Silentio also has some upside. After winning his first two starts, he was third in a second-level allowance against older runners here on Oct. 12.

Midnight Crooner won two straight on turf before finishing ninth of 10 in the Del Mar Derby on Sept. 2. Unraced since then, he returns with Martin Garcia having replaced Rafael Bejarano, who wound up on Silentio.

Garrett Gomez, who had ridden Silentio in all three of his starts, is on Conspiracy, who was third in a first-level allowance on dirt at Aqueduct last time. He is winless in two grass races.

Press Baron finished furiously for third behind Big Bane Theory in an allowance race here Nov. 2.

Fit to Rule scored a front-running win against maidens in his sixth start last time out. This will be his first race on grass.