02/24/2012 4:15PM

Santa Anita: Setsuko prepares for rematch with Game On Dude in Big Cap

Benoit & Associates
Game On Dude (right) holds off Setsuko to win the 2011 Santa Anita Handicap. The two are expected to meet again in this year’s Big Cap.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Setsuko’s career as a gelding got off to a stellar start with a comprehensive win in an optional claimer Feb. 4 at Santa Anita, just his second victory in 17 starts.

Three weeks later, he continues to thrive, working seven furlongs in 1:23.80 at Santa Anita on Friday.

“He worked awesome,” trainer Richard Mandella said.

Now comes the hard part, trying to win his elusive first stakes in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap next Saturday.

Second by a nose in a controversial running of the race last year for owners Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, Setsuko, 6, will make his sixth career start in a Grade 1 in the Big Cap. Run over 1 1/4 miles, the Big Cap is expected to have a large field, including defending champion Game On Dude.

Setsuko’s narrow loss in the 2011 Big Cap was his best race of that year. He was bumped in the stretch and could have easily been promoted after the stewards conducted a lengthy review of the stretch run. Later in the year, Setsuko made four more starts, with his best result a second in the Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park. He was turned out and gelded after a last-place finish in a field of nine in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August.

On Friday, Mandella timed Setsuko galloping out a mile in 1:38. The trainer knows the Big Cap will be difficult, with the presence of Game On Dude and Ultimate Eagle, winner of the Strub Stakes on Feb. 4.

“Game On Dude is just like his name,” he said. “The horse that won the Strub is pretty impressive.”

At Hollywood Park, Fiddlers Afleet, second to Setsuko on Feb. 4, worked five furlongs in 1:01. Trained by Peter Eurton for Marc Ferrell, Fiddlers Afleet will be an outsider in a Big Cap field expected to also include Boxeur des Rues, Gladding, Holladay Road, Prayer for Relief, Ron the Greek, Twice the Appeal, and Uh Oh Bango.

The Big Cap will be Fiddlers Afleet’s first start in a Grade 1.

There are two other Grade 1 races at Santa Anita next Saturday – the $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf and the $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies over a mile.

Mr. Commons will be favored to win his third stakes of the meeting in the Kilroe.

◗ One notable absence from Sunday’s $70,000 Baffle Stakes is Chips All In, winner of the Eddie Logan Stakes on Dec. 31 who was sixth in the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes on Feb. 4.

Trainer Jeff Mullins said Friday that Chips All In will be rested for a summer campaign, focusing on turf races.

◗ Jockey Corey Nakatani has withdrawn his appeal of a three-day suspension from early January and will serve the penalty on the racing days of March 4, 8, and 9.

Nakatani was originally cited for causing interference in a race Jan. 8. Through Thursday, Nakatani, 41, was eighth in the standings with 17 wins. Joel Rosario led all riders with 47 wins.