12/27/2008 12:00AM

Speed, class appear scarce in San Gabriel

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Handicappers are partially blindfolded Sunday at Santa Anita, where two key factors are missing from the Grade 2 San Gabriel Handicap - class and speed.

The $150,000 turf race is the first graded stakes of the meet for older horses, and quality is so limited that Proudinsky - off the board in 5 of his last 6 - is likely to start favored based on a narrow defeat to Big Brown in fall and a close fourth last out in a Grade 1.

But the challenge facing the Bobby Frankel-trained Proudinsky, a closer, is that the San Gabriel came up short on pace.

"That won't hurt Porfido," said Frankel, who trains them both.

Proudinsky missed by 1 3/4 lengths last month in the Citation; Porfido returns from an extended layoff.

The San Gabriel is the first start in five months for Porfido.

"Yeah, but he's ready," Frankel said.

Porfido has won 8 of 30; his most recent win was in a Santa Anita turf allowance at the same distance as the 1 1/8-mile San Gabriel.

Jockey David Flores is expected to position Porfido near the lead, while Garrett Gomez rallies from behind on 4-for-16 Proudinsky. Meanwhile, the probable San Gabriel pacesetter is Sartorial, whom trainer Richard Mandella scratched from an allowance Saturday to set the pace in the Grade 2 San Gabriel.

"The allowance had a lot of speed, and this race came up without any. I don't think the stake looked much tougher than the allowance," Mandella said.

The scenario is reason to consider Sartorial, but San Gabriel contender Ferneley should impact the pace.

Ferneley broke slowly and raced in seventh place throughout in the Grade 1 Citation last out, but trainer Ben Cecil envisions a different trip Sunday.

"My horse can go to the lead if need be; I'd like to see him forwardly placed," Cecil said.

Ferneley won a Group 3 in Ireland last May by leading throughout, and if he breaks running under Victor Espinoza he could fall into a good trip sitting second behind Sartorial. The question for Ferneley, unplaced in three graded stakes in the U.S., is whether he is good enough.

Also entered were Medici Code, fifth in the Citation; Silent Soul, an allowance horse; Swift Winds, winner of the Cal Cup Mile; Obrigado, runner-up last out in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup; and Becrux, third last out in the Citation.