A full field with ample speed is in prospect for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 7, and that’s encouraging news for Eoin Harty, who trains stretch runner Colonel John.
Winner of the Grade I Santa Anita Derby and the Grade I Travers Stakes as a 3-year-old last year, Colonel John worked seven furlongs on Pro-Ride Wednesday in 1:25.40.
“I would think there will be plenty of pace (in the Big ‘Cap),” Harty said. “He worked good. The track was tiring, because it was dug up Tuesday night, but he went well.”
The Grade I Santa Anita Handicap at 1 ¼ miles is shaping up as one of the most competitive in recent years, with six Grade I winners set to compete, as well as a Who’s Who of riders.
Probable for the 72nd Big ‘Cap: Blue Exit, Robby Albarado; Champs Elysees, Jose Valdivia Jr.; Colonel John, Garrett Gomez; Court Vision, Ramon Dominguez; Cowboy Cal, John Velazquez; Dansant, no rider; Einstein, Julien Leparoux; Magnum, Joel Rosario; Matto Mondo, Rafael Bejarano; Monba, Edgar Prado; Tiago, Mike Smith; and Zambezi Sun, Victor Espinoza.
Weights are due Saturday.
In other Big ’Cap news:
Matto Mondo worked seven furlongs on Pro-Ride Thursday in 1:26.80 for Richard Mandella.
European invader Dansant, trained by England-based Gerard Butler, is due at Santa Anita tomorrow and scheduled to familiarize himself with the Pro-Ride surface shortly thereafter.
All fans in attendance at Santa Anita will receive a free Big ‘Cap sports bag with paid admission, while supplies last.
First post time is 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m.

Take the Points, an aptly named son of Even the Score, was due in California from Florida yesterday for Saturday’s Grade III Sham Stakes, but plane problems delayed his arrival.
“The plane broke down yesterday, so he’ll be here today,” said Mike “Whitey” McCarthy, assistant to Todd Pletcher.
Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface will mark Take the Point’s fifth different race track in five career starts. The Sham will be his first stakes race. As a 2-year-old last year, he raced at Churchill Downs, Saratoga and Belmont Park. This year, he won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park in his 3-year-old debut on Jan. 31. With McCarthy directing operations for Pletcher in Southern California, he hasn’t had an opportunity to fully familiarize himself with the gray colt.
“I haven’t seen him since last summer,” McCarthy said. “He’s a very nice horse to be around. He’s impressive looking, has nice size and an athletic build. The Sham should be a good test for him. He deserves a chance. On numbers, he fits with those horses, so we’ll take our best swing.”
The field for the ninth running of the Sham: High Flyin Indy, Alonso Quinonez; Smart Bid, Rafael Bejarano; Tiz True, Aaron Gryder; Lifeline, Tyler Baze; The Pamplemousse, Alex Solis; Balfour Park, Brice Blanc; Mr. Hot Stuff, Corey Nakatani; Bourbon Bay, Joel Rosario; Ventana, Jesus Rios; Mark S the Cooler, Joe Talamo; Unbridled Roman, Mike Smith; and Take the Points, Garrett Gomez.

Beltene, who has risen from the claiming ranks to win the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Oaks and remain unbeaten in three starts, has been nominated to the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks on March 7, but trainer Jack Carava is withholding judgment on whether to face champion Stardom Bound in the Grade I race.
“I plan to work her probably tomorrow and make a decision,” Carava said. “I don’t know how many are going to be in there, but we’ll look it over, and if it’s a short field, we may try it.”
Carava said he also nominated Beltene to the $70,000 China Doll Stakes at one mile on turf on March 8.
Probable for the 70th Santa Anita Oaks: Beltene, Joel Rosario; Haka, Rafael Bejarano; Stardom Bound, Mike Smith; and Will O Way, Russell Baze.

Versatile Ventura, equally adept on turf or synthetic, will face males for the second time in her career in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile on grass on March 7.
“She’s good on both surfaces,” said Bobby Frankel, Santa Anita’s career leader in training victories with 909. “She might be better going seven-eighths of a mile than a mile.”
Ventura is perfect in three starts on synthetic surfaces going seven furlongs, including the Grade I Santa Monica Handicap on Jan. 31. She defeated champion Indian Blessing in the seven-furlong Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Oak Tree last Oct. 24. Prior to that, she was second against males in the Grade I Woodbine Mile on a yielding turf course on Sept. 7.

“It was a great race for her,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “She doesn’t like soft ground and the ground was soft that day. So far, her best races have been up to a mile, but maybe she’ll be stronger this year.”
Ventura, a 5-year-old Chester House mare owned and bred by Juddmonte Farms, will be retired for breeding after her 2009 campaign. She has an 8-5-1 record from 16 starts, with earnings of $1,539,470.
Probable for the 50th Kilroe: Artiste Royal, Rafael Bejarano; Dixie Chatter, Tyler Baze; Global Hunter, Jose Valdivia Jr.; Hewitts, Mike Smith; Mr Napper Candy, Joel Rosario; and Ventura, Garrett Gomez.
Dixie Chatter worked six furlongs on Pro-Ride Thursday in 1:13.60 for Richard Mandella.

Bob Baffert and two of his many champions are finalists for election to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame this year. The 56-year-old trainer, a three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby, is odds-on to be elected, but he chose to remain focused on his horses Thursday morning at Clockers’ Corner.
“I wasn’t really emotionally prepared for it,” Baffert said. “I was sort of blind-sided by the news. For me, it’s a very humbling feeling. I just hope my horses get in there.”
They would be Silverbulletday, a finalist in the contemporary female horse category with Open Mind and Sky Beauty, and Point Given, a finalist in the contemporary male horse grouping with Best Pal and Tiznow. Baffert is a finalist along with Robert Wheeler, who died in 1992 at the age of 72.
“I’d like to see Silverbulletday get in,” Baffert continued. “I’d like to see Mike up there (owner Mike Pegram). He’s the one who helped get me into this business.”
Those with the highest number of votes in each category will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday, Aug. 14, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

With one of his promising 3-year-old on the sidelines, Mike Machowsky hopes to get back on track with another, Kelly Leak, a versatile Florida-bred son of Runaway Groom, who won impressively at one mile over Santa Anita’s turf course Sunday.
“He’s won on turf and synthetic,” said the 43-year-old trainer, who has designs on the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby for Kelly Leak. “He had some bad luck in earlier races, but he can do anything. He broke his maiden at Hollywood (Park on Cushion Track), and was DQ’d at Del Mar (from the Grade II Best Pal Stakes on Polytrack). He runs on anything, and he came out of Sunday’s race really good. The timing (to run in the Santa Anita Derby on April 4) is good, too, so that’s what I’m thinking right now.”
Machowsky’s other promising 3-year-old, Majormotionpicture, is almost ready to resume training. “I’ll probably start him the first part of the month,” Machowsky said. “He just got too sore behind early in this meet, so it looks like I’ll replace one 3-year-old with another.”

The 42nd annual Holy Angels-Santa Anita Jockeys charity basketball game will be played tonight, 7 p.m., at La Salle High School in Pasadena. Proceeds benefit the Holy Angels athletic department.
“We have a tough assignment,” said veteran jockey David Flores, who is co-captain of the squad. “But it will be a lot of fun. It always is. We’re in good condition, but we’ll have to use our bodies to advantage to try and keep them away from the boards.” Flores tossed in a three-pointer last year. Santa Anita oddsmaker Jeff Tufts has installed Holy Angels a 14-point favorite to win tonight’s game.
Legendary Hall of Fame jockeys Eddie Delahoussaye and Laffit Pincay Jr. will serve as honorary captains, and will be available to sign autographs from 6 to 7 p.m. in the La Salle High gymnasium. La Salle High School is located at the southwest corner of Michillinda Ave. and Sierra Madre Blvd. in Pasadena, approximately four miles from Santa Anita. Admission is $5.

FINISH LINES: Family and friends numbering 1,000 will attend an Ortega family fund-raiser Saturday in Santa Anita’s infield. They’ll be rooting for the David Bernstein-trained Return of the King in the fourth race. The fund-raiser will benefit the Ortega family, nine members of whom were murdered in a Christmas Eve massacre in West Covina . . . Tomorrow is ‘Free Friday.’ General admission is free, as are box seats, while supplies last. Santa Anita also offers $1 hot dogs, soda, beer and pop corn . . . This Sunday is Snow Day at Santa Anita, featuring 200 tons of snow, winter games, snow slides and an ice skating rink in the track’s infield. Kids of all ages are invited and admission for kids is free all day. Adult admission is $5. Pony rides, face painters, carnival games and inflatable moon bounces will be available
. . . Indefatigable jockey agent Richie Silverstein celebrates his 50th birthday today . . . Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen and HRTV’s Peter Lurie will be Jack Disney’s guests at Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:15 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens.