03/08/2010 1:00AM

Second would be fine for Gripsholm Castle


ARCADIA, Calif. - A firm grip on reality is vital for the participants in Saturday's $250,000 Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita.

With the undefeated two-time champion Zenyatta making her 2010 debut in the Grade 1 race over 1 1/8 miles, the other five expected runners are essentially just running for second or third, and a coveted placing in a major stakes.

That's the point of view that trainer Ben Cecil has adopted for Gripsholm Castle, who along with Floating Heart, Haka, Pretty Unusual, and Striking Dancer is expected to take on Zenyatta.

"Obviously, anything can happen in these races, but that's really what everyone else is in there for, to get a [Grade] 1 placing," he said. "There can't be anyone going in there thinking they can beat Zenyatta."

Zenyatta has not started since beating males in the Breeders' Cup Classic here last November. She is unbeaten in 14 races for owners Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer John Shirreffs. Her start in the Santa Margarita is designed as a prep to an expected matchup against 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 9.

For Gripsholm Castle, the Santa Margarita can provide confirmation that she is among the leading older females in Southern California not named Zenyatta. In her U.S. debut in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes on Feb. 14, she finished second to Striking Dancer after leading in the final furlong. A Kentucky-bred 4-year-old filly who started her career in England, Gripsholm Castle has won 2 of 5 starts. She is owned by Triple B Farms.

Zenyatta will carry 127 pounds, spotting her expected rivals from 12 to 17 pounds. Gripsholm Castle will carry 112 pounds.

Zenyatta has carried as much as 129 pounds in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park last June. She won that race by 2 1/2 lengths.