01/31/2013 4:45PM

Santa Anita: Silentio gets first test against elders in Arcadia Stakes


ARCADIA, Calif. – The $150,000 Arcadia Stakes over a mile on turf at Santa Anita on Saturday will be the first stakes appearance against older horses for the lightly raced Silentio. The Grade 2 Arcadia is an assignment that Silentio can handle, according to trainer Gary Mandella.

“I think he’s that good,” Mandella said. “We think we haven’t seen the best of him yet.”

Silentio won his stakes debut in the Grade 2 Sir Beaufort Stakes over a mile on turf for 3-year-olds here Dec. 26. He faces a much tougher field in the 14-runner Arcadia.

The competition includes the four-time English stakes winner Strong Suit, who is making his U.S. debut; Wilkinson, winner of the Grade 2 American Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park last spring; the French stakes winner Vagabond Shoes; and Suggestive Boy, who was seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Mile behind 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan last November.

As the only 4-year-olds, Silentio and the outsider Tribal Tribute are the youngest horses in the field. Silentio drew post 7, an ideal draw in a crowded field for a colt likely to race from just off the pace.

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“Will he get the trip?” Mandella said. “I don’t know. What might be problematic is he’s a big horse. One of the things we’ve learned is once you make a move, when he gets his momentum, you better keep him going. In a 14-horse field, that could be a problem.

“That’s all out of your control. On raw ability, he’s good enough.”

So is Strong Suit, who was 10th in the 2011 BC Mile but won two Group 2 stakes in England earlier that year. Winless in five starts in 2012 for English trainer Richard Hannon, Strong Suit joined California trainer Simon Callaghan’s stable in November.

Callaghan said last week that he was happy with the way that Strong Suit was approaching his first start of the winter. He was not as enthused when Strong Suit drew the outside post in the Arcadia. Callaghan considers the Arcadia Stakes as a prep for the $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile on March 2 for Strong Suit.

“I think we’ll take him back and accept that he’ll be last early on,” Callaghan said. “The worst thing is to try to break and be five deep on the first bend. We can ride with confidence. It’s a prep race after all. It’s a Grade 2, and it’s not the be-all end-all. We’ll try to pick up a few of them and see what happens.”

England-based jockey Jamie Spencer, who rides first call on a worldwide basis for Strong Suit’s owner Sheikh Fahad al Thani, has traveled to California for the Arcadia.

Wilkinson drew slightly better in post 11 for his second start since winning the American Handicap. Trained by Jeff Mullins, Wilkinson was last of five in the Grade 3 Daytona Stakes on a wet-fast main track Dec. 29, a race originally scheduled for the hillside turf course.

Mullins did not commit Wilkinson for the Arcadia until the 5-year-old horse worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds on Monday. The loss in the Daytona was hardly an ideal preparation and should be thrown out, he said.

“If it had been down the hill, it would be different,” he said. “I probably shouldn’t have taken that chance.

“I’m glad he came back in one piece. You wonder how much he got out of that race. That’s my only concern.”