02/24/2006 1:00AM

Spellbinder adds extra furlong

Email
Horsephotos
A stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles, Spellbinder has never tried the Big Cap's distance.

ARCADIA, Calif. - A primary question surrounding Spellbinder's appearance in Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Handicap is how he will handle his first start at 1 1/4 miles.

Spellbinder has certainly conquered 1 1/8 miles, finishing third by a length in the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park in December and winning the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap here on Feb. 5, his first stakes win in his fifth stakes try.

The San Antonio gave trainer Richard Mandella and owners Jerry and Ann Moss a clear incentive to try the Big Cap, where Spellbinder will be a medium price among the probable field of 11.

"He's won at a mile and an eighth and he just missed in the Native Diver," Mandella said. "I hope he gets better."

Spellbinder has run near the front in recent starts, but that was not the style employed by Mandella for a seven-furlong workout on Friday. Working in company with two stablemates, Spellbinder started five lengths behind them, caught up to his workmates with a three-wide rally at the quarter pole, and finished in front.

The official time was 1:29, but Mandella timed Spellbinder in 1:27.60.

Mandella, who won the 2005 Big Cap with the now-retired Rock Hard Ten, said Spellbinder is adaptable and can race near the lead or off the pace.

"I think it depends on how the race sets up," he said. "If they go fast, I hope he's not leading."

The Big Cap is led by Lava Man, the winner of the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic on Jan. 28, along with High Limit and Giacomo, the first- and third-place finishers in the Strub Stakes on Feb. 4.

Other probable starters are Fitz Flag, Magnum, Marenostrum, Texcess, Top This and That, Wilko, and With Distinction.

Giacomo made his first start since the 2005 Belmont in the Strub, finishing five lengths behind High Limit. Mandella thinks that race will benefit Giacomo, who is also owned by the Mosses and is trained by John Shirreffs.

"Giacomo will be the horse to beat," Mandella said.

The two will not be coupled. Horses with common ownership are not coupled in $1 million races in California.

Two from Argentina take shots in Big Cap

Fitz Flag and Magnum, both of whom began their careers in Argentina, will be outsiders in the Big Cap.

Fitz Flag will be making his first start in a Grade 1 in this country. His status as a longshot does not concern trainer Juan Reviriego.

"He's a good horse," Reviriego said. "I know for sure he'll run a good race."

Fitz Flag finished third at 37-1 in the Grade 1 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap last April, his final start of 2005.

"He had little problems," Reviriego said. "The doctor said to wait. I gave him four months off. I wanted to take care of the horse. Now, he is very good."

In his lone start this year, Fitz Flag was fifth of 11 in the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes on turf.

"He's a better horse on dirt," Reviriego said.

Owned and bred by El Faruk Stable, Fitz Flag has won 4 of 11 starts and was a Group 2 winner at about a mile on turf in Argentina in 2004.

Magnum will make his U.S. stakes debut in the Big Cap. Trained by Darrell Vienna for Herrick Racing, Magnum, 5, won an optional claimer at a mile by 5 1/2 lengths on Feb. 12.

"He's coming off a very powerful race," Vienna said.

A winner of 4 of 14 starts, Magnum was third in the Argentine 2000 Guineas and fifth in the Argentine Derby in 2004. He has two wins in six starts in this country.

The Tin Man will go straight to Dubai

The Tin Man, the winner of the San Marcos Stakes last month, was not entered for Sunday's $150,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap at Santa Anita and will make his next start in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free Stakes at Nad Al Sheba on March 25, trainer Richard Mandella said.

The Tin Man, 8, would have been a strong favorite in the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo.

The Duty Free is run at about 1 1/8 miles on turf. This year's running is the richest ever; the race was worth $2 million in past seasons.

"He runs well fresh. He's had his two races" at this meeting, Mandella said.

The Tin Man won an allowance race at a mile on turf in December, his first start in nearly 15 months. Mandella said he is reluctant to give The Tin Man four starts in as many months.

"I'd be sorry if he got there and was a little [tired]," Mandella said of Dubai. "I think he has a hell of a race at a mile and an eighth in him."

Uphill battle for Hawkinsville

Hawkinsville, the runner-up in the Sham Stakes on Feb. 4, will start against top California-based 3-year-old Brother Derek in Saturday's $200,000 Santa Catalina Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.

Trained by Wesley Ward for Chris Carney, Hawkinsville made his stakes debut in the Sham. He was claimed for $25,000 from trainer Steve Asmussen at Hawthorne in November.

Friday, Hawkinsville worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 at Santa Anita. Blake Heap, Ward's assistant, knows that Hawkinsville faces a difficult assignment against three-time stakes winner Brother Derek.

"We want to get him an out and get a piece of it," Heap said. "He's a May foal and kind of a rangy colt, but he's starting to fill out. We hope he can keep learning."

The Santa Catalina will not a have a large field. Probable starters include Latent Heat, Mister Triester, Really Indian, and possibly Point of Impact.

Three tickets hit pick-six carryover

Thursday's pick six returned $352,167.40 to three ticket holders on a day when bettors added $1,485,193 to the pool. The program began with a one-day carryover of $231,863 from Monday's program.

The winners of Thursday's pick-six races were Beau ($6.20), All Aglow ($47.80), Proud Suzett ($38.20), Ameridar ($13.80), Sherwood Park ($7.80), and Matty G Whiz ($3.80). Beau, Sherwood Park, and Matty G Whiz were favored.

According to track officials, the tickets were purchased at satellite locations in San Bernardino and at Golden Gate and through the XpressBet advance wagering system.

* "On the Muscle," a documentary that follows trainer Richard Mandella's stable for a year, will air on consecutive Tuesdays on HRTV, beginning this Tuesday at 2 p.m. Pacific. The series continues at 2 p.m. on March 7 and 5 p.m. on March 14.