01/08/2008 12:00AM

Shorter sprints may aid speed

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ARCADIA, Calif. - A break in the winter weather will allow Santa Anita to tiptoe back into an uncertain season Thursday, when it holds live racing for the first time since Jan. 4.

Three days of racing were scrapped over the weekend due to wet weather and an unsafe racing surface, but early this week the sun reappeared. Dry weather and two dark days allowed track superintendent Richard Tedesco to prepare a surface that is suitable for Thursday's eight-race card.

Although the inside 20 feet of the main track remained closed for training Tuesday, Tedesco expected the entire oval would be open for training and racing Wednesday and beyond. Track maintenance crews were unable to restore the soaked backstretch chute in time for the Thursday card, however, and it has a direct impact on the racing.

Three races originally scheduled for six furlongs (races 2, 3, and 8) were shortened to 5 1/2 furlongs. Race 5 was scheduled originally for 5 1/2 furlongs, and remains at the distance.

Even though races at 5 1/2 furlongs are less appealing than longer races, at this point most are happy for any racing at all. And bettors who believe shortened distances benefit speed can test the theory in race 2.

The $25,000 claiming sprint includes a possible standout. Forest Danz finished seventh last out at seven furlongs, and was claimed for $20,000.

"He was at the wrong distance," said new trainer John Sadler, who would have run him back at six furlongs. Not necessary. With the backstretch chute unavailable, Forest Danz only needs to stretch his speed 5 1/2 furlongs. It is just right for his front-running style.

Race 4 is the same thing. Kula Girl wired older restricted claimers last time at six furlongs, and would have been dangerous right back at the same distance. Claimed for $25,000 by trainer Pete Eurton, she returns for the same claim price at only 5 1/2 furlongs. Come and catch her.

The richest race of the day also features a pace play. Eight fillies and mares race one mile on the main track in race 7, and Quite a Stormkat is the one to catch in the first-level allowance.

Kristin Mulhall trains Quite a Stormkat, who set a wild pace of 42.24 seconds and 1:10.03 on Dec. 15 at Hollywood Park, and was run over by late-runner Zenyatta. Quite a Stormkat can be long gone Thursday, if she holds off closers Queens Full and Down.