01/09/2009 1:00AM

Well Armed tries fresh start


ARCADIA, Calif. - Well Armed won three graded stakes in 2008, earned more than $1.4 million, and it was still not enough to impress Eclipse Award voters. When the finalists for the 2008 awards were announced Thursday, Well Armed's name was not among the list of older males.

Now, it is on to 2009. Well Armed has a chance to make an early-season impression in Saturday's $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita. The Grade 2 San Pasqual will be Well Armed's first start since a ninth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

Trainer Eoin Harty said he is trying to forget that race.

"He looks like he's back to his old self, for sure," Harty said. "The key is he's really happy in his works. At the peak of his campaign last year, that's the way he worked."

The San Pasqual distance of 1 1/16 miles on Pro-Ride is an ideal fit for Well Armed, a 6-year-old gelding owned by WinStar Farm. He was second in the 2008 San Pasqual and won the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap over 1 1/16 miles last July.

As 2008 progressed, Well Armed evolved from a front-runner to a horse equally comfortable stalking the pace. He led throughout the Grade 2 San Antonio in February, but stalked the pace in winning the Grade 1 Goodwood Stakes here in September.

Harty expects Well Armed to stalk the pace in the San Pasqual, which drew 12 entrants. There may not be that many runners. Ball Four and Cowboy Cal, stakes winners trained by Todd Pletcher, are not certain to start.

Slew's Tizzy may run near the front. The winner of the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park last month, Slew's Tizzy has shown speed and has drawn the outside post with Joel Rosario to ride.

"I think he has enough versatility that he doesn't have to be sent along early," trainer Doug O'Neill said. "It's in Joel Rosario's hands. Hopefully, we don't lose a lot of ground on the first turn."

Marchfield, the 2008 Sovereign Award winner as Canada's champion older main-track male, adds intrigue to the field. Trained by Mark Casse, Marchfield won the Grade 2 Autumn Stakes on the Woodbine Polytrack on Nov. 9 in his last start.

"He's worked over the track quite well," said Ricky Griffin, assistant to Casse. "He's grown up and filled out. He's more mature."