03/06/2008 12:00AM

Zanjero starting '08 with Razorback bid


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Zanjero will meet older horses for the first time Saturday in the Grade 3, $150,000 Razorback Breeders' Cup Handicap at Oaklawn Park after a highly productive 3-year-old campaign in which he banked $1 million. He is the 118-pound highweight in the 1 1/16-mile race, which drew a competitive group that includes Southern California shipper Racketeer.

The field of eight also includes Going Ballistic, winner of last year's Grade 2 Super Derby, and Spotsgone, Jonesboro, and Gouldings Green, who were the first three finishers in last month's $100,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn.

Zanjero closed out his 3-year-old campaign with a sharp win in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby on Oct. 6. Following the race he had briefly been considered for the $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, but his connections instead decided to freshen him "to give him the best chance to be a nice older horse," said Steve Asmussen, who trains Zanjero for Winchell Thoroughbreds. "This is the beginning of it."

Zanjero, a candidate for the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap here April 5, has been working at Fair Grounds for his return. His latest move was a six-furlong drill in a bullet 1:14 on Feb. 25.

"He's training really nicely," Asmussen said. "He put in a great work with Pyro last week, and off of that we felt that he was ready for the Razorback."

Zanjero ran first, second, or third in 7 of 8 starts last year, with all his efforts coming in graded stakes. His lone off-the-board finish was in the Kentucky Derby, where he encountered significant traffic trouble and finished 12th. Before that race, he had run third, beaten a head, in the Grade 1 Blue Grass. Luis Quinonez has the mount in the Razorback.

"I think he's a closer, but off the layoff he'll be pretty sharp," Asmussen said of Zanjero. "A mile and a sixteenth really suits him right now."

Jonesboro has turned in consecutive bullet workouts since he finished second by a length to Spotsgone in the Essex. The Feb. 9 start was his first since Dec. 7.

"He should move forward off that last race," said Randy Morse, who trains Jonesboro.

Spotsgone, who along with Jonesboro is the speed of the Razorback, was found to have a foot bruise on Thursday and will not run if he is not 100 percent, said his trainer, Jinks Fires.

"Sometimes when they bruise, the next day it's okay," he said. "We'll see."

Fires will also send out Prom Shoes, who was a good second earlier this year in the $100,000 Louisiana Handicap.

Going Ballistic is entered off an uncharacteristic 12th-place finish in the Sunshine Millions Classic, a race in which he never got involved over the synthetic surface at Santa Anita.

"He's trained real good since," said Donnie Von Hemel, who trains Going Ballistic. "He's had some nice works. We worked him out of the gate in company just to make sure there wasn't anything left over from the Santa Anita deal. He broke sharp and outworked his company."

Cliff Berry has the mount in the Razorback.