03/07/2008 1:00AM

Ventura flashes major talent


ARCADIA, Calif. - It is premature to put Ventura in the same category as Nashoba's Key or Zenyatta, but an impressive United States debut by Ventura in a third-level allowance turf sprint Thursday at Santa Anita stamped the Bobby Frankel-trained European import as a potential stakes filly in the months ahead.

Ventura ($3.80) won the 6 1/2-furlong race by two lengths, and earned a 92 Beyer Figure while geared down by Garrett Gomez. Frankel said the filly's overseas form and sharp works on Cushion Track at Hollywood Park suggested she could be something special.

"I wasn't sure I was doing the right thing running her on grass," Frankel said. "I was even thinking that if the Santa Margarita was a mile and a sixteenth, I might have tried her there, first time out."

Juddmonte Farms bred and owns Ventura, a 4-year-old Chester House filly who won 3 of 8 in England, including a listed stakes on Polytrack at Kempton, where she beat older males by 2o1/2 lengths. "Her form got better as she got older; she could be a serious horse," Frankel said.

Ventura broke like a shot Thursday, and then rated comfortably. She eased back to fourth in the five-horse field, cruised wide into the lane, quickly opened up, and won under a hold.

"You always hope they win like that," Frankel said, adding, "I think she'll stretch out because she rated so kindly. There are so many options with her."

Medici Code bled in Big Cap

Medici Code bled "pretty badly" when he finished 13th in the Santa Anita Handicap last Saturday, according to trainer Darrell Vienna. Medici Code was bet to 11-1 in the Big Cap, based on graded-stakes-caliber turf form and outstanding recent works on the Santa Anita main track, but he backed up the final quarter-mile.

Winner of the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby and La Jolla Handicap last summer, Medici Code won his first three starts on artificial surfaces in Europe before making his U.S. debut for owners William and Donna Herrick in the 2007 Santa Anita Derby. Medici Code also bled slightly in the derby, but the Big Cap episode "was significant."

Vienna said he would determine the direction of Medici Code's campaign after he recovered and resumed training. He is currently walking and being treated with antibiotics. The 4-year-old Medici Code has won 4 of 14 and $387,547.

Student Council will try grass in Kentucky

Student Council, sixth in the Big Cap, is gone from California.

"He left three days later," trainer Vladimir Cerin said, adding that owner Ro Parra "told me he wanted to try him on grass."

Student Council won the Pacific Classic last summer for Cerin, and the Hawthorne Gold Cup for Steve Asmussen. Student Council is expected to aim toward the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs.

Sadler stakes pair switching distance

Trainer John Sadler will tweak distances for stakes winners Zappa and Tasha's Miracle. Zappa will stretch from 1 1/4 miles to 1 1/2 miles; Tasha's Miracle will shorten from one mile to 6 1/2 furlongs.

Zappa, winner of the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap early this meet and fifth in the Santa Anita Handicap, runs March 29 in the Grade 3 Tokyo City Handicap. The race has been lengthened to 1 1/2 miles.

"That's a perfect spot for him - I know he can run that far," Sadler said. Zappa won at 1o3/8 miles last fall, and in the Big Cap, Sadler said, "he was not backing up." A win in the Tokyo City would make Zappa a contender for the inaugural running of the $500,000 Breeders' Cup Marathon this fall at 1 1/2 miles.

Zappa has won 11 of 28 races and $45,220. He will face Mike Mitchell-trained Church Service and Big Booster in the Tokyo City.

Tasha's Miracle, meanwhile, will drop in distance when she runs March 30 in the Grade 3 Santa Paula Stakes. That 6 1/2-furlong race might be followed by a race two weeks later at Keeneland - the Grade 2 Stonerside Beaumont Stakes at seven furlongs. Last time out, Tasha's Miracle finished third in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes at one mile.

"I think she's a little better going short," Sadler said.

Tasha's Miracle won the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes last summer at Del Mar.

Shediak joins San Felipe probables

Julien Leparoux will ride import Shediak when the 3-year-old makes his first start of 2008 and first start in the U.S. next Saturday in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes.

The 1 1/16-mile stakes will be the first two-turn start for six-furlong world record holder Bob Black Jack, Grade 1 winner Georgie Boy, and San Pedro Stakes winner Gayego.

Other possible San Felipe starters include On the Virg, Signature Move, Selkirk, and Chop House George.

Sutherland plans to go back to Woodbine

Chantal Sutherland, the 32-year-old Canadian jockey, remains committed to a return to Woodbine early next month despite much success this winter at Santa Anita. Sutherland rode Ymustichasethecat to an 11-1 upset on Thursday, her eighth win from 60 mounts.

Sutherland has become the darling of a longshot bettors - a $2 win bet on each of her mounts would have produced a $3.10 return on investment. Nonetheless, Sutherland told the Santa Anita publicity department she will return to Woodbine the second week of April.

"I would love to stay, it's just that the purses are so good at home," she said.

Sutherland, whose agent is Tommy Ball, said she would consider returning to California next winter. The Woodbine meet ends Dec. 9.

* Graded-stakes-placed Peace Chant makes his first start in 10 months in a third-level allowance sprint that is the feature race on Monday's card. Peace Chant faces Declan's Moon and Hewitts in the 6 1/2-furlong seventh race.

* The promising 3-year-old Two Step Salsa ($3.20) stayed unbeaten in two starts when he scored a front-running win Friday in a fast six-furlong allowance clocked in 1:09.09. Two Step Salsa, by Petionville, won race 2 under a hold by jockey Martin Pedroza. The margin was 2 3/4 lengths over Dr. Au Jus. Julio Canani trains the winner, whose final time was accomplished over a surface that played quick the first two races.