02/12/2006 12:00AM

Too Much Bling wires San Vicente


ARCADIA, Calif. - Too Much Bling tailed off at the end of last year, necessitating a rest. A subsequent switch to Southern California, along with a freshening, has made all the difference. For the second straight race this year, Too Much Bling won a Santa Anita sprint stakes in fast time, this time on Sunday in the Grade 2, $150,000 for 3-year-olds.

The seven-furlong San Vicente unfolded far different, however, from last month's San Miguel Stakes at six furlongs. Last time, Too Much Bling was able to sit and pounce. But in the San Vicente, he broke alertly under jockey Garrett Gomez, and immediately faced pace pressure from Totally Gone and jockey Patrick Valenzuela.

They sped through swift fractions of 21.72 seconds for the opening quarter, and 43.97 seconds for a half-mile. Too Much Bling disposed of Totally Gone on the far turn, but was challenged by Peace Chant, who had been sitting in the perfect stalking position under Edgar Prado and loomed ominously.

Too Much Bling ($3.60), though, never wavered. He continued bravely to hold safe Peace Chant and prevail by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:22.50 for seven furlongs following a six-furlong split of 1:08.84. New Joysey Jeff ran on for third, another 3 3/4 lengths behind. Totally Gone finished last in the field of eight, 22 1/4 lengths behind Too Much Bling.

"I thought the other horse was going to blow by," said Bob Baffert, who trains Too Much Bling. "To hold on like he did shows his quality. This was a gut check. Class always prevails. If he could have gone slower, he probably could have won by more."

"That's not the way I wanted the race to shape up," Gomez said. "He was getting late, but so was everyone else from chasing him."

The victory was the third in seven starts for Too Much Bling, a son of Rubiano who was acquired privately by Bob and Janice McNair's Stonerside Stable following a victory against maidens at Thistledown last July. Tim Hamm, the original owner and trainer of Too Much Bling, has retained a small share in the colt; Hamm competes as Blazing Meadows Farm.

Although Baffert is no stranger to the road to the Kentucky Derby, he said he was inclined to keep Too Much Bling around one turn this spring.

"I think that's the best thing to do with a horse with world-class speed," he said.