02/11/2008 1:00AM

World Cup next for Well Armed


ARCADIA, Calif. - Well Armed's desperate win in Saturday's $250,000 San Antonio Handicap on Saturday was a prep to the $6 million Dubai World Cup in the Middle East on March 29, trainer Eoin Harty said Sunday.

After conferring with owner Bill Casner, of WinStar Farm, Harty said that Well Armed will pass the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 1 in favor of the more lucrative race in Dubai.

"I don't think you could do both," Harty said. "They want to go to Dubai."

Well Armed, 5, won his first stakes in the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap at 1 1/8 miles. Dismissed at 14-1, Well Armed led throughout under Aaron Gryder. Leading by 3 1/2 lengths at the eighth pole, he won by a head over the fast-closing Heatseeker.

Both the Santa Anita Handicap and the Dubai World Cup are run at 1 1/4 miles. The distance of the World Cup is a concern to Harty, along with the competition. The race is expected to draw Curlin, the 2007 Horse of the Year.

Well Armed won a maiden race at 1 1/4 miles on a Polytrack surface in England in November 2005 when he was trained by Clive Brittain.

"That wasn't against the best in the world," Harty said. "We'll have to tackle Curlin."

Well Armed raced in Dubai in the winter and spring of 2006 with Brittain, winning 1 of 3 starts. Harty said the $1 million Godolphin Mile on the World Cup undercard may not suit Well Armed.

"I don't think he's fast enough to win the Mile," he said.

Eleven lined up for Big Cap

Even without Well Armed, the Santa Anita Handicap has a potential field of 11, including Go Between, the winner of the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic here on Jan. 26, and Monterey Jazz, the winner of the $300,000 Strub Stakes on Feb. 2.

Other probable starters are Awesome Gem, Big Booster, Celtic Dreamin, Great Hunter, Heatseeker, Monzante, Seminole Native, Student Council, and Tiago. Awesome Gem was third in the Breeders' Cup Classic last October and third in the San Antonio. Tiago was second in the Strub Stakes and won the Goodwood Stakes here last September. Student Council won the $1 million Pacific Classic last August and was fifth in the San Antonio.

Trainer Vladimir Cerin insisted that he was not discouraged by Student Council's five-length loss to Well Armed.

"He needed it," Cerin said. "It hurt us not having the last work. He was 14 days between the last work and the race."

Buzzards Bay, fifth in the Sunshine Millions Classic, is being pointed for the $150,000 Razorback Breeders' Cup Handicap at Oaklawn Park on March 8. Trainer Ron Ellis wants to start Buzzards Bay on a conventional dirt track and not a synthetic surface in Southern California.

Zayat trio headed out of state

Three of trainer Bob Baffert's most promising 3-year-old males, all owned by Ahmed Zayat, are being sent to trainers Bill Mott or Steve Asmussen.

Massive Drama, who finished third in Sunday's $150,000 San Vicente Stakes, and the maiden race winners Maimonides and J Be K are being relocated.

Maimonides and J Be K, who have not started since the Saratoga meeting last summer, were shipped out of California on Saturday, Baffert said. Baffert said he was not sure when Massive Drama would be sent out, but "I'm sure he'll be leaving."

Maimonides, a $4.6 million yearling purchase, was third in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes last September. J Be K set a track record of 1:03.13 for 5 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga last summer.

Baffert said that Zayat "has been frustrated with what's going on in California."

Four of California's five major Thoroughbred tracks have installed synthetic surfaces in the last 14 months, as part of a 2006 mandate from the California Horse Racing Board. Last summer, Zayat complained about the inconsistencies of the Del Mar Polytrack surface. At the time, Zayat said, "I'm totally supportive of synthetic surfaces, but you need a surface that is both safe and maintains the integrity of racing. You can't take the speed out."

Last July, Zayat and Baffert sent some horses to Saratoga, including Maimonides and J Be K, but they returned to California in the fall.

Zayat did not attend Sunday's program at Santa Anita.

Trainers send out their troops

There were 232 main-track workouts at Santa Anita on Sunday, a day after racing resumed on the newly renovated synthetic track.

The activity on the racetrack was seen as an endorsement from trainers on the integrity of the surface.

"I think we're cautiously optimistic," said trainer John Sadler, who is tied for first in the standings with 13 wins.

Sadler had 12 horses record workouts on Sunday, the second day of training since the track was reopened.

Last week, Ian Pearse of Melbourne, Australia, the founder of the Pro-Ride synthetic surface supplier, spent a week at Santa Anita overseeing a five-day renovation project that added polymers and fibers from the Pro-Ride surface to the existing Cushion Track brand surface.

The Cushion Track surface failed to drain after several rainstorms in January and early February, resulting in the cancellation of 11 days of racing.

On Saturday and Sunday, the surface produced slower times than earlier in the meeting, when a six-furlong world record of 1:06.53 was set by the 3-year-old Bob Black Jack in the Sunshine Millions Dash on Jan. 26.

Times were quicker on Saturday than Sunday. A 3-year-old maiden race at 5 1/2 furlongs on Sunday was timed in 1:02.58. The record for the distance, 1:01.27, was set by In Summation in the El Conejo Handicap on Jan. 1.

"I was encouraged yesterday that there was no bias," Pearse said on Sunday morning. "They were coming from behind. The better horses were winning on the day."

Pearse said the course will require little attention from maintenance crews between racing and no watering.

"There shouldn't be water placed on the track," Pearse said. "It will need very little maintenance, maybe once or twice to groom the tire marks for the ambulance."

Santa Anita's track superintendent, Richard Tedesco, said that feedback from horsemen has been favorable. He is often the first to hear complaints, since his job requires providing constant attention to the surface.

"It's a relief to see people happy and horses going around," Tedesco said.