09/27/2004 11:00PM

Swiss Lad looks for a win after chasing top pair


ARCADIA, Calif. - The Cavonnier Stakes on Thursday at Santa Anita may be a prep for the California Cup Juvenile, but ramifications of the seven-furlong Cavonnier go well beyond the statebred ranks.

When he races seven furlongs in the Cavonnier, Swiss Lad can either validate the the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity - the fastest 2-year-old race this year - or throw cold water on a hot race. Swiss Lad finished nearly 10 lengths behind Declan's Moon and Roman Ruler in the Futurity, which was run in a blazing 1:21.29 and earned a 107 Beyer.

Trainer Jeff Mullins did not say that Swiss Lad would have kept up with the one-two Futurity finishers, but said that in retrospect he should have instructed jockey Tyler Baze to go on with it after breaking sharply.

"He was a little fresher than we thought, and we took hold," Mullins said.

If the Futurity was legitimate, all that Swiss Lad must do Thursday is reproduce the 85 Beyer he earned.

Five California-bred colts entered the $75,000 Cavonnier, which goes as race 2, and , a comebacker drawn on the rail for his first start since July. Johnny High Brite, Generalist, and Shining Event also were entered.

While Swiss Lad is racing in sharp form and is proven at seven furlongs, Graduation Stakes winner Senor Fango has not raced beyond 5 1/2 furlongs.

Senor Fango entered the I'm Smokin on Sept. 6 at Del Mar, but trainer Jerry Dutton scratched him because he would have carried 124 pounds.

"I don't like 122 in this race, either," Dutton said. "I don't know if he can go seven-eighths or not, but he's been training good."

Senor Fango has won 2 of 6.

Buddy Gil back on hillside turf course

The Mullins-trained Buddy Gil returns to the downhill turf course in race 7, the first time he has raced down the hill since winning the Grade 3 Baldwin in February 2003. Buddy Gil is one of six starters in the classified allowance, in which Mullins also entered recent arrival My Cousin Matt. The field includes Lennyfromalibu, De Valmont, Ride and Shine, and Geronimo.

My Cousin Matt arrived 10 days ago from Belmont, and Mullins said the graded-stakes-winning sprinter breezed well over the course in preparation for his first start for Mullins. He is owned by Richard Englander.