04/19/2008 12:00AM

Shamdinan targets San Juan rebound

Four-Footed Fotos
Shamdinan stretches out to 1 3/4 miles in Sunday's San Juan Capistrano Handicap.

ARCADIA, Calif. - At times in his 10-race career, Shamdinan has been both brilliant and dismal, sometimes in consecutive starts. If the trend continues, the 4-year-old colt can win Sunday's $250,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at Santa Anita.

The Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano is the closing-day feature of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting. The Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting begins Wednesday.

The San Juan Capistrano is run over about 1 3/4 miles on turf, making it the longest graded stakes in the country. It will be Shamdinan's second start of 2008 after a ninth-place finish in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes on Feb. 23. Prior to that, he was second to English Channel in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Monmouth Park last October.

Shamdinan was beaten 17 3/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park. He was third on the final turn of that race and faded rapidly through the stretch. A few weeks later, Shamdinan was transferred from Angel Penna Jr. to Doug O'Neill in California.

The 4-year-old colt arrived as a familiar face to O'Neill, who trained Shamdinan for two starts last year - a win in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park in his U.S. debut and a fifth in the Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park. By the time Shamdinan finished second in the Breeders' Cup Turf, he had been sent to Penna.

O'Neill thought the Gulfstream Park race was too poor to be true, and he called Penna to find out what happened. Penna told him that Shamdinan might have been a work or two short.

"Angel had mentioned that the race came up quicker than he'd hoped," O'Neill said.

Owned by Triple B Farms, Shamdinan will be trying the longest distance of his career in the San Juan Capistrano. As a 3-year-old in Europe, he finished third in the 1 5/16-mile French Derby, and was ninth in the 1 1/2-mile Irish Derby in his final start on that continent.

O'Neill said the colt has thrived in the two months since the Gulfstream Park race.

"I think with that race he'll be ready for a big effort," O'Neill said.

There are others in the field proven at the distance, notably defending champion On the Acorn; Fitz Flag, who was third in the 2007 San Juan Capistrano; and Victorian Price, the winner of an allowance race over about 1 3/4 miles here April 5.

On the Acorn rallied from fifth to win the 2007 San Juan Capistrano. Trained by Mike Mitchell, On the Acorn, 7, won the Grade 2 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap last May before being given the rest of the year off. He is winless in two starts this year, including a sixth-place finish in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap on March 22.

At the time, Mitchell criticized himself for that performance, saying that he had not done enough with On the Acorn since his third-place finish in the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo Handicap in February.

Mitchell was more encouraged by On the Acorn's six-furlong workout in 1:12.80 last Sunday.

"I loved the last work," he said. "It's probably his best workout for me since I've had him. He's a 7-year-old and he may have gotten out of the wrong side of the bed for the San Luis Rey. It's got me scratching my head."

Big Booster was a fast-closing third in the Grade 3 Tokyo City Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on the main track on March 29. Early in his career, the 7-year-old gelding won 4 of 25 races on turf.

Through Thursday, Mitchell led the trainer standings with 30 wins, two more than John Sadler and three more than O'Neill. Mitchell was more focused on the San Juan than the trainer race this week, saying, "If they give me the San Juan, they can have the trainers' title."