Updated on 09/16/2011 7:43AM

Spain returns in Santa Monica

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Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Spain, winner of the 2000 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs, runs Saturday for the first time since disappointing in the Falls City on Nov. 22.

ARCADIA, Calif. - *, the two principals in Saturday's $200,000 Santa Monica Handicap at Santa Anita, approach the race with different agendas.

For Spain, a finalist for the Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding older female in 2001, the Grade 1 Santa Monica is the launch of a 2002 campaign that owner Prince Ahmed Salman and trainer D. Wayne Lukas hope will end with similar distinction.

For Kalookan Queen, it may be the closest she comes to a championship-caliber event. A sprinter, Kalookan Queen could win her first Grade 1 in the seven-furlong Santa Monica, a goal that owner Luis Asistio and trainer Bruce Headley have had for the 6-year-old since the start of her career.

Both mares are capable of winning the Santa Monica. The field also includes Favorite Funtime and longshots Leading Light and Warren's Whistle.

Of the top pair, Kalookan Queen may hold a slight advantage because of her tactical speed. Kalookan Queen, who will be ridden by Alex Solis, can lead throughout but could face early pressure from Favorite Funtime, who is seeking her first graded stakes win.

Headley said he was thrilled with Kalookan Queen's preparation.

"She's getting on top of a whirlwind race," Headley said.

A winner of three of her last four starts, Kalookan Queen won the minor Corona Handicap over 6 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park on Dec. 16 by six lengths after stalking the pace to the final turn.

"Sometimes, when she goes to the front, they can't stay with her," Headley said. "We don't have to be on the lead. She's better lying second."

The win in the Corona helped erase the disappointment of a third-place finish behind Shine Again and Dream Supreme in the Grade 2 First Flight Handicap at Belmont Park on Oct. 26.

Kalookan Queen was out of serious training at this time last year but finished second in the 2000 Santa Monica Handicap, losing by a length to Honest Lady.

"She always runs well, even if someone beats her," Headley said.

A win by one of the other three fillies and mares would be a surprise. Warren's Whistle won the Pio Pico Stakes for California-breds last September but is winless in her last five starts. Favorite Funtime returns two months after a front-running win in the Cat's Cradle Handicap over 7 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park. Leading Light could have been claimed last October for $50,000 out of a one-mile turf race.

Kalookan Queen is unlikely to get too far from Spain. A 5-year-old with seven wins in 28 starts and earnings of $2,971,040, Spain is likely to be a few lengths behind the pace and attempt a move on the turn. "Spain's a great mare, and you bet he'll have her ready," Headley said of Lukas.

Spain was fourth in the seven-furlong Ballerina Handicap at Saratoga last August, her first start after a four-month break. In December 2000, she won the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes against 3-year-old fillies over this track.

"If she runs that race back, she'll be tough," Lukas said.

Lukas said his winter goals for Spain are the $200,000 Santa Maria Handicap on Feb. 17 and the $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap on March 10, both two-turn races.

The Santa Monica will be Spain's first start since she finished a disappointing fifth in the Grade 3 Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 22. Before that, she was second in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Belmont Park, a race she won in 2000 at Churchill Downs.

Spain is winless in her last seven starts and won only once in nine starts in 2001, scoring in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes over 1 1/8 miles here last February.

"She's won at this distance, but I think she's better at two turns," Lukas said. "She needs to start back and this is probably a good spot. We're anxious to get her started. It will set up her for the next two."

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