04/19/2012 2:43PM

Santa Anita: Stalking role suits Compari in San Simeon

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ARCADIA, Calif. – Once a speedball, Compari has mellowed with age.

The 6-year-old gelding now frequently races as a stalker, which makes him dangerous in a race such as Saturday’s $100,000 San Simeon Handicap at Santa Anita.

“He’s changed a lot,” trainer Marty Jones said. “Earlier in his career, he was a need-the-lead type. Now he runs from off the pace. It’s gratifying.”

Compari used that style to win the fifth stakes of his career in the Sensational Star Stakes for California-breds on Jan. 28, over the same distance of about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course as the San Simeon.

Compari was third in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf on March 3, leading in the stretch before finishing 1 1/4 lengths behind Willyconker.

“He’s a pretty versatile horse,” Jones said.

[MORE: Download PPs and read handicapping analysis for full Santa Anita Saturday race card]

Compari thrives on the hillside, having won two of three starts on the course. His only loss in that sequence was a fourth to Regally Ready in the 2011 San Simeon. Regally Ready went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs last November.

Compari has won 8 of 15 starts for a partnership of John Harris, John Nicoletti, and Don Valpredo.

For Saturday’s San Simeon, Compari is likely to race behind the leaders, who are expected to be the millionaire California Flag or Ain’t No Other, a multiple stakes winner.

The San Simeon, the fifth race on a 10-race program, drew a field of eight. Irish Art, a minor stakes winner on the hillside last October, merits consideration. Trained by Carla Gaines, Irish Art won an optional claimer on the hillside on March 22, a win that ended a four-race losing streak.

The San Simeon could have BC Turf Sprint ramifications since the 2012 running of the race will be at Santa Anita.

California Flag won the 2009 BC Turf Sprint and was eighth in the 2010 running and 12th last year after a troubled trip. The San Simeon will be California Flag’s first start since the BC Turf Sprint last November, a layoff that does not concern trainer Brian Koriner.

“He seems like he always runs well fresh,” Koriner said. “We’ve got enough works in him. He should be ready to run.”

The San Simeon will be the 26th career start for California Flag, an 8-year-old gelding. He won the Grade 3 Morvich Stakes on the hillside turf course last October.