01/25/2013 3:52PM

Santa Anita: Sky Kingdom eyes Santa Anita Handicap after return win

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ARCADIA, Calif. – The field for the Santa Anita Handicap on March 2 could include Sky Kingdom, who returned from a layoff of nearly a year to win an optional claimer in Thursday’s seventh race.

Ridden by Martin Garcia, Sky Kingdom ($9.40) closed from last in a field of seven with a five-wide move to win by a neck over Blueskiesnrainbows, winner of the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park last July.

Bob Baffert trains Sky Kingdom, who has won 3 of 7 starts. The optional claimer was Sky Kingdom’s first start since a fifth in the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes here in February 2012.

“He’d been working really well,” Baffert said. “He’s doing much better than he did before. I was surprised that he won with that trip, but he didn’t have any choice.

“If he comes out of that race, I think [with] the longer distances he’ll get better. A stakes will be next. The Big Cap is a possibility.”

Baffert could have a strong team for the Big Cap. Next weekend, he runs three hopefuls for that race – Fed Biz and Guilt Trip in Saturday’s $200,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds and Game On Dude in Sunday’s $200,000 San Antonio Stakes.

Saturday’s program also includes the $200,000 Robert Lewis Stakes for 3-year-olds over 1 1/16 miles. He’s Had Enough, second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November, and Flashback, a sharp maiden race winner in December, are the leading candidates.

In Thursday’s optional claimer, Gladding, the winner of the 2011 San Antonio, finished last, but was claimed for the second consecutive race for $62,500. Gladding was claimed by Mike Mitchell on Jan. 12, the day the 6-year-old gelding finished second in a sprint. Thursday, Gladding was claimed by trainer Vann Belvoir.

Rightful Image injures suspensory

Rightful Image, who was pulled up in Thursday’s sixth race when contending for the lead, was diagnosed with a suspensory injury, trainer Mike Machowsky said Friday. Rightful Image was the even-money favorite in the $25,000 claimer.

Machowsky said that Rightful Image did not sustain any sesamoid damage.

“He should be fine to live a normal life,” he said. “He won’t run again. He should be fine for a riding horse. We need to get him through the next week.”

Race in honor of Jack Disney

Retired sportswriter and racing publicist Jack Disney will have a race named in his honor Sunday.

Disney is a former publicity director at Hollywood Park, and worked in publicity at Santa Anita from 1992 until last year. He has also owned horses in partnership, including 2007 San Juan Capistrano winner On the Acorn.

Disney is a former sportswriter with the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, where he wrote about racing and the city’s leading professional and college teams. He will be honored by the City of Arcadia with “Jack Disney Day” on Sunday.

◗ There were no main-track workouts at Santa Anita on Friday for the second consecutive day because of rain.