01/03/2002 12:00AM

'Wooden' lone speed in Pasqual


ARCADIA, Calif. - The odds keep dropping on Wooden Phone, the lone speed in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap Saturday at Santa Anita. Though Wooden Phone will be favored regardless, the uncertain status of Euchre solidifies Wooden Phone as the deserving favorite in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Eight entered the $200,000 San Pasqual, the season's first race for a wide-open handicap division. * faces California Cup Classic winner Irisheyesareflying, improving South American-import Sienne, and five others. The status of Euchre, the only entrant with multiple U.S. graded stakes wins, is unresolved.

Trainer Bobby Frankel said Thursday Euchre was "90 percent recovered" from a leg infection, and that his status depends on a Friday blowout. The infection forced Frankel to scrap a work planned for Wednesday. Euchre jogged Wednesday and Thursday instead. Euchre has won six of 17 starts, but Frankel admits the training schedule is not ideal. What effect will it have? "It's not the why I would have trained him," Frankel said. "I don't know if he'll be at his very best."

If not, Irisheyesareflying becomes the main threat to Wooden Phone, though trainer John Dolan enters with realistic expectations. "I probably shouldn't say this, but Wooden Phone is just a better horse," Dolan said. "That doesn't mean you shouldn't try him, and I'm running out of places to run."

Dolan's candor should not be mistaken for surrender; most sane handicappers probably would agree with him. Wooden Phone, winner of the Grade 2 Strub Stakes last winter and runner-up in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, has won six races and $711,545 from 17 starts. Irisheyesareflying, claimed for $50,000 in August 2000, has won seven races and $621,256 from 31 starts.

Wooden Phone, trained by Bob Baffert, finished well in front of Irisheyesareflying their only previous meeting, in the 1 1/4-mile Big 'Cap last March. Running a shorter distance on Saturday, Irisheyesareflying may attack earlier, Dolan said. "The good thing is it's a mile and a sixteenth; if [Irisheyesareflying] goes after [Wooden Phone] early, which he will, it won't show up as much the last part."

Irisheyesareflying has trained steadily since his last start, Nov. 3, while Wooden Phone also makes his first start in nearly two months. He scored a solid comeback win Nov. 14 at Hollywood Park, and has a series of bullet workouts since.


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