The long Triple Crown trail for 3-year-olds gets starts in earnest on the West Coast Saturday with Santa Anita Park's $150,000 San Rafael Stakes (gr. II), which drew six entries.

One of those entered, Texcess, will be going to San Francisco to compete in the $100,000 Golden Gate Derby, according to trainer Paul Aguirre, reducing the field to five for the one-mile event. The lightly raced group should present an evenly matched affair, the first prep race for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on April 9.

Kirkendahl, undefeated in two sprints late last year at Hollywood Park for the Dream Walkin Farms, Inc. of country music star Toby Keith, makes his first start around two turns in the San Rafael. Keith also bred the son of Menifee.

Trained by Ted H. West, Kirkendahl will face his sternest test yet, with stout competition expected from Spanish Chestnut, a $500,000 son of Horse Chestnut who was an impressive three-length winner at 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita on Dec. 27 for trainer Patrick Biancone.

The meet's leading trainer, Doug O'Neill, will be represented by Dover Dere, winner of the Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate Fields in December, and Iced Out, a fast-closing second in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes at seven furlongs on opening day.

Chips Are Down is a $450,000 son of Distorted Humor   who defeated Spanish Chestnut earlier. Chips Are Down is owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis and trained by Bob Baffert, the team that took Silver Charm to wins in the 1997 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I).

$150,000 San Rafael Stakes (gr. II, Race 4), 3-year-olds, 1 mile
PP. Horse, Jockey
1. Kirkendahl, Kent Desormeaux
2. Spanish Chestnut, Gary Stevens
3. Chips Are Down, Rene Douglas
4. Dover Dere, Jon Court
5. Texcess, Victor Espinoza
6. Iced Out, Tyler Baze
Each is assigned 115 pounds except Texcess, who gets 121.

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