01/08/2008 1:00AM

Stakes shuffle raises questions


ARCADIA, Calif. - The wet-weather failure of Cushion Track at Santa Anita will create handicapping uncertainty when the graded stakes schedule resumes this weekend.

Four graded stakes were scrapped when racing was canceled Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. All four are rescheduled for the coming weekend, and evaluating the current form of the principals is now a lot more difficult.

Well Armed will set the pace in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap on Saturday, exactly a week after the 1 1/16-mile race was scheduled to be run. Because of the postponement, trainer Eoin Harty worked him one more time, on Tuesday.

"It's not the ideal preparation for a Grade 2," Harty admitted.

Everyone is in the same boat. Well Armed worked five furlongs Tuesday in 1:00.60, and the front-runner will be no worse for the wear.

The improving Zappa also needed another work. "You have to make adjustments," trainer John Sadler said. "He was ready to run last Saturday."

Sadler was asked whether the postponement and subsequent workout were significant from a handicapping perspective. "I don't know how you quantify that, it's a hard question," he said. "It's really a horse-by-horse situation."

Bobby Frankel originally entered three in the San Pasqual, including 5-2 morning line favorite Racketeer. He said Tuesday that Racketeer and Thousand Words were likely to start, while Hello Sunday was likely to skip the race.

The rescheduled San Pasqual for older horses is one of three stakes Saturday. The card also features the comeback of Tiago in the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes for 4-year-olds, and a small field led by Wind's Legacy and Talk of a Cat in the Grade 2 San Rafael Stakes for 3-year-olds.

Likely San Fernando favorite Tiago will be making his first start since finishing fifth in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

"We gave him a little break after the Breeders' Cup. He looks like he's ready," trainer John Shirreffs said. "He's been on a regular routine."

Tiago has won 4 of 9 starts, including two Grade 1's - the Goodwood last fall against older horses, and the Santa Anita Derby.

Owned and bred by Jerry and Ann Moss, the 4-year-old colt Tiago is the richest (earnings of more than $1.2 million) and most accomplished Moss starter this weekend. However, their 4-year-old filly Zenyatta stamped herself as a potential star with a ridiculously easy allowance win Dec. 15 at Hollywood Park and she gets tested for class Sunday in the Grade 2 El Encino Stakes for 4-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.

A half-sister to Grade 1 winner Balance, Zenyatta won both her starts with breathtaking ease, and will be tested Sunday, racing against Tough Tiz's Sis and Dawn after Dawn.

Dawn after Dawn tied up and scratched from the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes on Dec. 29, but Sadler said does not expect the setback to affect her effort in the El Encino.

"It's no big deal, because it's been a couple weeks, and she's worked since," he said. "She wasn't going to win the race anyway the way it came up."

Sadler is qualified to make the statement, because he trains La Brea winner Dearest Trickski. Sadler said Dearest Trickski would run next Jan. 26 in the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint.

In addition to the El Encino, two other stakes Sunday include the return of Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Indian Blessing in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez at seven furlongs, and the rescheduled Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes in which Turn Away will be favored.

The biggest beneficiary to the weekend stakes shuffling may be Grade 1 winner Wait a While. She was scheduled to run Sunday in the Grade 2 San Gorgonio, but would have scratched due to course condition. When racing was canceled entirely, it gave her another chance.

The San Gorgonio, at 1 1/8 miles for fillies and mares on grass, has been rescheduled for Monday, by which time a week of dry weather will allow the course to be fast and firm. Just the way Wait a While likes it.

Coast Guard getting stakes try

The promising 3-year-old colt Coast Guard, who won his third start Dec. 29 for trainer David Hofmans, is headed into a stakes race.

Hofmans said Coast Guard, who earned an 84 Beyer Speed Figure leading gate to wire, will be considered for the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis on Feb. 2.

"I might have to put blinkers back on him, he's still a little green," Hofmans said.

Coast Guard was gawking around through the stretch of his maiden win, and he has done the same thing in morning works.

If he runs in the Lewis, Coast Guard will face CashCall Hollywood Futurity winner Into Mischief, who will make his 2008 debut in that 1 1/16-mile race, according to his trainer Richard Mandella. Mandella said that Into Mischief was "due for a good work" on Thursday.

The Lewis might also be the target for Reflect Times, whose come-from-behind allowance win Dec. 28 made him 2-for-2. A closing sprinter so far, trainer John Shirreffs is confident the colt will run long.

CashCall runner-up Colonel John will make his 2008 debut March 1 in the Grade 3 Sham, at 1 1/8 miles, according to trainer Eoin Harty.