10/25/2006 11:00PM

Super Strut primed to end losing streak


ARCADIA, Calif. - Super Strut has endured a four-race losing streak since his win in the Crystal Water Handicap at Santa Anita last March, but trainer Craig Dollase's faith in the 6-year-old gelding has not wavered. After all, the losing streak includes nothing but second- and third-place finishes in turf stakes throughout California. It is that consistency that Dollase hopes will lead Super Strut to victory in Saturday's $175,000 California Cup Mile at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting.

Super Strut breaks from post 3 in a field of 12, the largest field of any of the 11 California Cup races on Saturday. Super Strut carries 119 pounds in a strong field that includes El Don, McCann's Mojave, and Unfurl the Flag.

Super Strut, sixth in the 2005 Mile, is having his best season this year. After his win in the Crystal Water, he finished third behind Lava Man in the Khaled Stakes, a fast-closing second to El Don in the California Dreamin' Handicap, third in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap, and second in the Presidio Stakes at Golden Gate Fields on Sept. 30.

"He didn't care for that turf course up there," Dollase said of Golden Gate Fields. "There was a lot of sand on that course. We're back to a course that he likes. I expect a good run."

The one-mile distance of Saturday's race is a concern to Dollase. Even though Super Strut won the Crystal Water Handicap over a mile on turf last March, Dollase thinks that Super Strut needs more ground. His theory certainly has support in the way that Super Strut ran at Del Mar, falling short of catching El Don over a mile and staying on with Breeders' Cup hope T.H. Approval in the Del Mar Handicap over 1 3/8 miles on turf.

"He probably needs a little more ground, but this is California-breds," Dollase said. "I'd feel a lot better if it was 1 1/8 miles."

There should be ample speed in the Cal Cup Mile. The speedy McCann's Mojave, the winner of the 2005 California Cup Classic, drew the rail. Sixth in the Crystal Water, McCann's Mojave is making his second start after a layoff of more than six months. McCann's Mojave was considered for a defense of his title in the Classic, but instead the 6-year-old horse will try for his first stakes win on turf.

"There is speed in the Classic and the Mile and we decided to leave him on the grass," trainer Paddy Gallagher said.

El Don, a two-time stakes winner this year, will be stalking the pace, which is likely to include Unfurl the Flag. A 6-year-old gelding, Unfurl the Flag was a game second in the War Chant Stakes on Oct. 9, staying near the front throughout.

"He ran lights-out the other day," trainer David Bernstein said. "He's going just as good as ever."

Unfurl the Flag drew the outside post, which discouraged Bernstein. Before the race he said he did not want a wide draw.