01/07/2010 1:00AM

Santa Anita roundup

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NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES

Paul Atkinson rode five horses the first eight racing days, yet the winter meet already has been memorable. Atkinson gave undefeated Caracortado a flawless ride Dec. 26 in a two-turn stakes race and guided Bonita Sonador to a Jackpot of the Week victory Jan. 1.

Bonita Sonador paid $119.80 wiring a field of maiden fillies in a one-mile turf race; the payoff was the highest of the meet. Atkinson was quietly confident in Bonita Sonador, who was stretching out for the first time.

We thought she could get out there and relax, and when she went 49 for the half, you couldn t ask for anything better, Atkinson said.

Willard Thompson owns Bonita Sonador, who is trained by Robert Lucas.

The Chalk of the Week award goes to Worth a Punt, whose $2.60 payoff in a $32,000 maiden claimer Jan. 2 tied maiden-claiming winner Bullfighter s payoff Dec. 27 for the lowest of the meet. Worth a Punt, trained by Howard Zucker, was dropping from special weight and won by 6 1/4 lengths.

Only six of the 11 favorites who started at even-money or less won races during the second week of the meet. After eight days, favorites at even-money or less are 8 of 16; the overall win rate for favorites through Jan. 3 was 38 percent (27 of 71).

The Most Likely Repeater award for Week 2 goes to Welken, whose $40,000 claiming-race win Dec. 31 in a mile turf race was the seventh of her career. The turf rails were at 24 feet, and Welken was next-to-last early but rallied to a half-length victory and was claimed from Jerry Hollendorfer by Mike Mitchell. Now 6, Welken will be tough right back in a $50,000 turf claimer, sprinting or routing.

DIVISIONAL RANKINGS

Santa Anita Derby

1. Lookin at Lucky, 2. Blind Luck, 3. Conveyance, 4. Tiz Chrome, 5. Take Control, 6. Make Music for Me, 7. American Lion, 8. Caracortado, 9. Hawaiian Springs, 10. The Program

Lookin at Lucky retains the top spot in the Santa Anita Derby rankings; there is shakeup elsewhere. Noble s Promise, previously ranked No. 2, drops off the list. He remains one of the nation s leading Kentucky Derby prospects, but trainer Ken McPeek said that when the colt returns from a 30-day freshening he will go to Gulfstream Park.

I want to train him on dirt, McPeek said, adding that a return trip to California has not been ruled out.

Who s Up, previously ranked No. 4, also drops off. He worked a bullet 58.80 seconds Dec 23 at Hollywood, then came up with a foot issue that will keep him out of serious training for two weeks. I m not going to push him early, trainer Kathy Walsh said. Sidney s Candy, previously ranked No. 8, finished off the board in his allowance comeback and also drops.

Additions to the list include Take Control, the impressive debut winner Dec. 30. The addition of Take Control means Baffert trains four of the top five on the list. Conveyance runs Jan. 16 in the Grade 3 San Rafael Stakes at one mile.

Caracortado, winner of the California Breeders Champion Stakes on Dec. 26, moves onto the list; he is aiming for the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis on Feb. 6. The filly Blind Luck moves to No. 2 because of attrition, although current plans do not include facing colts. Her comeback is scheduled for Feb. 6 in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes. Hawaiian Springs and The Program are ranked low; their rankings will change pending a Jan. 6 allowance race both entered.

Santa Anita Handicap

1. Gio Ponti, 2. Misremembered, 2. Richard s Kid, 4. Mast Track, 5. Papa Clem, 6. High Court Drama,

7. Rendezvous, 8. Blue Chagall, 9. Quindici Man,

10. Neko Bay

All it took was a three-furlong workout by Gio Ponti on Jan. 2 to put the Breeders Cup Classic runner-up back on top. Gio Ponti s winter-spring campaign remains unspecified, but if he stays in California he would be tough to beat in the Big Cap. The Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap on Saturday will provide much-needed definition to the older handicap division.

WHO'S HOT/COMING ATTRACTIONS

The Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap on Jan. 31 is three weeks away, and the seven-furlong race for fillies and mares shapes up as a thriller among Evita Argentina, Free Flying Soul, and Tuscan Evening. Evita Argentina, 4 for 8 at seven furlongs, won the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes on Dec. 26; Free Flying Soul and Tuscan Evening won stakes last weekend.

Free Flying Soul earned an 87 Beyer in the Kalookan Queen Handicap on Jan. 3. The knock on Free Flying Soul into the Santa Monica is she has one race beyond 6 1/2 furlongs. Tuscan Evening won the Grade 3 Monrovia, a turf sprint, with an 89 Beyer on Jan. 3 and will make her first start on the main track in the Santa Monica.

Pending workouts, weight, post, and pace, Santa Anita linemaker Jon White analyzed the Santa Monica principals to arrive at a preliminary odds ranking. White had Free Flying Soul favored, Evita Argentina second, and Tuscan Evening third.

The California female turf division is a mess, and when Life Is Sweet scratched from the Grade 2 San Gorgonio Handicap on Jan. 2 it got uglier. But the improving Cat by the Tale stepped up with a perfect-trip victory in the 1 1/8-mile San Gorgonio, her fifth win from 17 starts. Neil Drysdale trains Cat by the Tale, who cannot always count on a perfect trip pressing the slow fractions she saw in the San Gorgonio. The next filly-mare turf stakes is the Grade 3 Buena Vista at one mile Feb. 15.

WHO'S NOT HOT

Noble Court bled a little bit when he finished unplaced as the 5-2 favorite Jan. 2 in the Impressive Luck Handicap, according to trainer John Sadler. He just doesn t seem like himself at the moment, Sadler said. He s just tailed off.

Sadler said he hoped to stretch Noble Court to two turns, but instead the 6-year-old will get a break.

Sidney s Candy, trained by Sadler, hopped and was away slowly at odds of 3-5 in a first-level sprint Dec. 30 for 3-year-olds of 2010. He never recovered and finished fourth.

He came out sound, so we re going forward, Sadler said.

Sidney s Candy will run in an allowance or the Grade 2 San Vicente on Feb. 15.

Diamondrella was compromised by a wide trip behind a slow pace and finished fifth as the 2-1 favorite Jan. 2 in the San Gorgonio. Trainer Gary Stevens said she came out of the race in good shape and will drop in distance for her next start in early February, with the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile against males on March 6 the long-range goal.

Connie and Michael, third by a length in the Grade 3 Miesque on Nov. 29, was flown to Kentucky for an evaluation of what trainer Ken McPeek called a small issue. Connie and Michael would have been a contender Sunday in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel.

TRACK BIAS

Front-runners got swallowed going two turns on Pro-Ride the first eight days of racing at the Santa Anita winter meet. There were 15 main-track route races the first two weeks of the meet; none was won by the front-runner. Even the good older allowance horse One Track Mind got worn down Dec. 30 after six furlongs in 1:14.17.

Likewise, off-the-pace runners dominated sprints the first two weeks, with fewer than 20 percent (7 of 36) won by a horse that led at every call.

HORSES TO WATCH

Line of David

Trainer: John Sadler

Last race: Dec. 30, 3rd

Finish: 2nd by 2 3/4

A second-start maiden stretching out following a nondescript debut, this son of Lion Heart seemed timid racing inside and behind horses and merely went one-paced through the stretch while improving off his debut. He might add blinkers for his next start and deserves one more shot. He works more impressively than he has run so far.

Tiz Afire

Trainer: Marty Jones

Last race: Dec. 30, 5th

Finish: 4th by 4 1/4

A gelding racing for a $12,500 claim tag, the 8-year-old (now 9-year-old) had no shot while wide throughout the 1 1/16-mile race. Void of speed while three and four wide most of the trip, he wound up six wide into the lane and understandably lost his punch. The lightly raced (24 starts) veteran fits for a $10,000 tag and only needs a better trip.

Hard Way Ten

Trainer: Richard Mandella

Last race: Jan. 1, 2nd

Finish: 3rd by 1 1/4

A 3-year-old filly making her career debut, this daughter of Rock Hard Ten turned in a creditable effort at a six-furlong distance possibly shorter than she prefers. She was slow from the gate, came four wide into the lane, and produced a grinding finish behind two front-runners. Bred to run long (her dam was a two-turn stakes winner at Emerald Downs), this filly should move up a ton second time out at a longer trip.

Tanda

Trainer: Dan Hendricks

Last race: Jan. 3, 9th

Finish: 1st by 3 1/2

A second-time starter switching to turf, this 3-year-old filly by Sweetsouthernsaint blew away a field of maiden sprinters and appears a likely repeater when she faces winners. She broke like a shot, steadied slightly at the right-hand curve in the downhill sprint, pressed the pace while confidently ridden, and kicked away strongly in deep stretch. The figure came back soft (77 Beyer Speed Figure), but visually this race was powerful.