03/16/2012 4:00PM

Santa Anita: Shorter distance, mud aid Gladding in Santana Mile

Benoit & Associates
Gladding, winning last year's San Antonio, takes a distinct class drop from the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap to the listed Santana Mile.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Gladding should relish the conditions Sunday at Santa Anita, where the class-drop front-runner can be loose on the lead in the Santana Mile.

At one mile on the main track, the $70,000 Santana is an easier spot for Gladding than the race he tried 15 days earlier. That was the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap at 1 1/4 miles, a tough race made impossible by an extreme pace.

“The race came up wrong,” Gladding’s trainer John Sadler said, referring to the duel between favored Ultimate Eagle and Gladding. Head-and-head though a 44.55-second half-mile and six furlongs in 1:09.08, they finished 10th and 11th, respectively.

“However you saw the race, we were not in there trying to ruin it,” Sadler said, admitting that Gladding prefers shorter races. He finished 10th in the 2011 Big Cap. “Maybe after two years of the Big Cap, maybe I should not be running him a mile and a quarter,” Sadler said.

Conditions are favorable Sunday. Gladding, a Grade 2 winner, drops in class for a shorter distance, and figures to control the tempo over a surface he figures to appreciate.

“I know he likes mud,” Sadler said. “This is a good distance for him.”

Mike Smith rides Gladding, who has won 3 of 14 starts and $205,200. Rain is forecast, which is fine. Gladding’s first start in California last winter was an allowance win on a wet-fast track.

Six rivals will chase the favorite. They include stretch-out sprinter Canonize, one-paced Tweebster, comebacker Worth Repeating, closer Make Music for Me, and outsiders Honour the Deputy and Spud Spivens.

Canonize is a lightly raced 6-year-old trying two turns for the first time after 12 career starts, all sprints. Ron Ellis trains Canonize, whose career has been frequently interrupted by physical issues.

“I thought he was going to be a pretty good miler, but he hasn’t put enough races together to stretch out,” Ellis said. “He always trained like he’ll be able to get it.”

Canonize, a 4-for-12 gelding, scored a sharp allowance win on Feb. 3 at seven furlongs, and followed with a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 San Carlos. Victor Espinoza rides Canonize, who should be positioned closest to the front-runner Gladding.

Though Canonize is bred for a wet track, Ellis would prefer fast track conditions.

“I run two horses in stakes this weekend, and it looks like both will be running over bad tracks,” he said.

The Ellis-trained filly Include Me Out was scheduled to start Saturday in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita.

Third choice in the Santana is likely to be Tweebster.

“He’s a gray horse, and they like mud,” trainer Bob Baffert cracked.

Tweebster, who has won 3 of 17, will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano.

Worth Repeating makes his first start since winning the Grade 3 Tokyo City last March 26; Make Music for Me recently finished last in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on turf. Spud Spivens and Honour the Deputy will pick up the pieces in the Santana, race 7 on the eight-race Sunday card.