01/21/2010 12:00AM

Santa Anita roundup

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NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES

Monzante needed a confidence builder after getting drilled in three straight Grade 1's. He dropped into an allowance Jan. 16, and with a quarter-mile to go in the mile turf race, he trailed hopelessly as the even-money favorite. Garrett Gomez swung him to the outside, and the 6-year-old uncorked a wicked burst of late speed, running his final quarter in a shade over 22 seconds, and won by a nose. It was the "Performance of the Week" and makes the Mike Mitchell trainee a worthy candidate for the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile on March 6.

"Jackpot of the Week" honors go to Heavenly n' Free, the $103.40 winner of a five-horse allowance sprint for Cal-bred fillies and mares Jan. 15. It was the first Santa Anita win for French rider Flavien Prat. Suzanne Rodriguez trains Heavenly n' Free, a 5-year-old daughter of Free House, who rallied inside to win by a neck with a career-high 77 Beyer Speed Figure in her 23rd career start. She was a tough winner to find. No, make that impossible.

The "Chalk of the Week" award goes to Conveyance, $2.60 winner of the Grade 3 San Rafael Stakes on Jan. 16. Bob Baffert trains the 3-year-old colt, who was the 24th odds-on favorite from the first 155 races at Santa Anita. Lopsided chalk is underperforming - 11 winners and 13 losers, including five that finished off the board.

The "Most Likely Repeater" award goes to Espresso Springs, who crushed a $25,000 claiming sprint for 3-year-olds on Jan. 15. Bob Hess trains the gelding, who earned an 81 Beyer that makes him a likely favorite in a similar age-restricted claimer. Ventana (Most Likely Repeater, Jan. 2 edition) entered the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Handicap scheduled for Saturday. He is racing over his conditions again, and he will be a price.

DIVISIONAL RANKINGS

Santa Anita Derby

1. Lookin At Lucky, 2. Blind Luck, 3. Tiz Chrome, 4. Take Control, 5. Make Music For Me, 6. American Lion, 7. Caracortado, 8. Alphie's Bet, 9. Kettle River, 10. Conveyance

Despite winning the one-mile San Rafael, unbeaten front-runner Conveyance drops from No. 3 to No. 10. "He needs dirt," trainer Bob Baffert said, suggesting Conveyance may ship out for his next start. At odds of 3-10 in the San Rafael, Conveyance struggled through the lane, raced on his wrong lead, and was fully extended to win the one-mile San Rafael with a 90 Beyer. His style is ineffective on Pro-Ride.

Conveyance's downgrade allows others to move up, and a new name appears on the list. Alphie's Bet, trained by Alexis Barba, uncorked an impressive burst of late speed to win a mile turf race for statebred maidens Jan. 15. Runner-up to No. 7-ranked Caracortado in a Cal-bred stakes one back, Alphie's Bet will return Feb. 27 in the Grade 3 Sham at 1 1/8 miles. Another colt to keep an eye on is improving maiden winner Setsuko, who was scheduled to run Jan. 21 in a first-level allowance.

Santa Anita Handicap

1. Misremembered, 2. Papa Clem, 3. Neko Bay, 4. Zenyatta, 5. Gio Ponti, 6. Rendezvous, 7. Mast Track, 8. High Court Drama, 9. Richard's Kid, 10. Life Is Sweet

It is frustrating to rank Big Cap contenders, because the March 6 race is not expected to include two 2009 Eclipse Award winners - older female Zenyatta and older male Gio Ponti. Zenyatta makes her first appearance on the Big Cap list, at No. 4, but it is unlikely she would go 1 1/4 miles her first start back. Zenyatta could, however, return one week later, March 13, in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita at 1 1/8 miles.

Likewise, the Big Cap is not a high priority for Gio Ponti. His main goal is expected to be the Dubai World Cup. Richard's Kid runs Feb. 7 in the Grade 2 San Antonio and is another whose Big Cap status is dubious. He was purchased by Zabeel Racing and is tentatively scheduled to race once in California, then go to the Dubai World Cup. A Grade 1 winner, Richard's Kid drops from No. 3 to No. 9 after the sale. Life Is Sweet's name goes on strictly to fill up the list. She has faced males, and the presence of Zenyatta in female races makes facing males again a reasonable alternative.

Misremembered, Papa Clem, and Neko Bay are ranked 1-2-3 primarily because they have raced this winter and will aim for the Big Cap. Papa Clem won an unsatisfying Grade 2 San Fernando on Jan. 16. The race unfolded slowly, the one-two pacesetters finished two-one, and closers made up no ground. Runner-up Smart Bid seemingly has distance limitations.

WHO'S HOT

Jockeys

Chantal Sutherland had a week to remember. She won Jan. 13 with her first mount, The Town Lady, on Jan. 16 she won her first Santa Anita graded stakes with Amen Hallelujah in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez, then came back Jan. 17 to score a $61.40 upset with Pretty Unusual in the Grade 2 El Encino Stakes. Sutherland entered the week tied for 11th in the standings, with 5 wins from 37 mounts. All five winners were fillies; Sutherland rides the filly Party With Brando on Saturday in race 1.

Trainers

Doug O'Neill won four races from eight starters to climb to third in the standings, with eight wins overall from 36 starters. O'Neill operates a smaller stable in California than past years, which might explain his increased efficiency. He also keeps a string at Philadelphia Park, where he is 5 for 18 since the start of the year. Locally, O'Neill trails leader Bob Baffert (11 wins) and John Sadler (9).

WHO'S NOT HOT

Acclamation and jockey David Flores had the worst trip of the week in an entry-level allowance Jan. 15 at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Dropping out of successive thirds in graded stakes, Acclamation broke from post 6 and lost ground start to finish.

Track announcer Trevor Denman described it in his race call: "Acclamation's gonna be caught four wide into the turn (seven-eighth pole). . . . Acclamation is still wide (half-mile pole). . . . Acclamation wide (quarter pole). . . ." Acclamation finished third by 1 1/4 lengths and lost more ground than his margin of defeat would indicate.

ShowVivor continues, barely. ShowVivor is a free contest (www.santaanita.com) in which players choose one horse each day to finish in the money. Going into Jan. 15, there were 95 remaining players, 41 picked A Clever Ten to hit the board in race 3. She pulled hard, was briefly blocked into the lane, and sputtered. From 3,215 original players, only 27 remained to start the week.

The Santa Anita main track, Pro-Ride, has not handled rain, and racing was canceled Monday after the first in a series of storms hit Southern California. After the cancellation of racing, track president Ron Charles was quoted in Daily Racing Form: "There have been discussions knowing we're going to have to replace this racetrack after this meet. The options are out there to return to dirt."

Justwhistledixie finished off the board as the El Encino Stakes favorite and apparently does not like synthetic. Mythical Power finished off the board as the San Fernando second choice, after which trainer Bob Baffert suggested he also wants to run on dirt.

HORSES TO WATCH

Total Bull

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Last race: Jan. 13, 7th

Finish: 2nd by 2 1/4

Making his second career start, this Fusaichi Pegasus 5-year-old was compromised by a severe anti-speed bias in an N1X sprint. Pressured early, he shook away into the lane but was no match for the rally-wide winner. On a fair surface next time, he can be gone.

Initial Impression

Trainer: Sean McCarthy

Last race: Jan. 13, 8th

Finish: 4th by 2 1/2

A first-time starter at a mile on turf, this 4-year-old showed she can run. She broke slowly and trailed while the leaders crawled (49.06 seconds and 1:12.94). She rallied into contention into lane, was blocked and steadied in stretch traffic, then cleared to the outside and finished with run. She can be followed in a two-turn race for Cal-bred maiden fillies and mares.

Jimmy Da Brick

Trainer: Frank Lucarelli

Last race: Jan. 13, 5th

Finish: 4th by 2 3/4

This veteran gelding had a tough trip in a $40,000 claiming sprint. He raced inside and behind rivals, tried to split horses passing the three-sixteenths pole, but no room materialized and he steadied to lose all chance. An upset winner here last winter around two turns, he can drop in class or stretch back out, or both.

Imperial Pride

Trainer: Bob Hess Jr.

Last race: Jan. 16, 1st

Finish: 2nd by 1/2

Originally scheduled to debut Dec. 26 but scratched after an incident in the paddock, this 3-year-old showed much promise racing a distance shorter than his perceived preference. He raced greenly but finished second while crying for more ground. A son of Limehouse, this colt can only improve with racing experience and a longer distance.