01/04/2011 3:59PM

Small field not a positive for Spurrier in San Pasqual

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Benoit & Associates
May Day Rose figures to be outfront in Sunday's Santa Ysabel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

ARCADIA, Calif. – When trainer Bob Baffert realized that Saturday’s $150,000 San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita may have only four starters, he had a quick opinion of the chances of his starter, Spurrier.

“I might be in trouble,” he said.

Spurrier, a 5-year-old horse, races from off the pace, and there may not be much speed for him to pursue in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes, which is run over 1 1/16 miles.

There were only eight nominations for the San Pasqual. Aggie Engineer, Spurrier, and Dakota Phone, who were first, second, and fourth in the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park last month, and Quindici Man, who won the Bull Dog Stakes at Fresno in October, are the expected runners.

Baffert trains Spurrier for Arnold Zetcher, who also owns nominee Red Door Drive. Baffert said Red Door Drive will pass the race. Of the other nominees, trainer Paddy Gallagher said California Cup Classic winner Soul Candy will not start, while trainer Richard Mandella said the graded stakes placed Worth Repeating is unlikely to run. Ryehill Dreamer, another nominee, was entered in a turf race Friday.

Aggie Engineer is expected to set the pace. He set a slow pace when winning the Native Diver from the front. Spurrier was fifth of seven for the first seven furlongs of the Native Diver and was within 1 3/4 lengths of the winner at the finish. Baffert is clinging to the way that Spurrier has trained in recent weeks.

“He’s been working really well,” Baffert said. “He trained like that before his last race.”

The story is similar for Sunday’s $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies over 1 1/16 miles. This time, Baffert has the filly to catch in May Day Rose. She won’t have many rivals. Alec’s Moon, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, and Zazu are being considered. John Sadler, who trains Zazu, said his filly may not run if he is not happy with her training.

There were only eight nominations for the Santa Ysabel, so the race will not have a large field.

May Day Rose, who races for Kaleem Shah, won the Sharp Cat Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 7 but was only fourth in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 11. She was near the front early, got within a head of the lead on the turn, and finished 3 1/4 lengths behind Turbulent Descent. The loss left Baffert upset.

“She should have been on the lead,” Baffert said. “I was disappointed with that. She’s got to be on the lead. That’s her style, and I’m not going to change it.”