Congrats Heads Mixed Bag in San Carlos Handicap

Three entrants who have distinguished themselves in distance races, Congrats, Imperialism and Surf Cat, will have to deal with a pair of sharp and improving 5-year-old sprinters in Major Success and Jet West at seven furlongs in Santa Anita's $150,000 San Carlos Handicap (gr. II) on Saturday.

Congrats, who shares high weight of 118 pounds with Jet West, hasn't sprinted since May 3, 2003, when he was victorious in a seven-furlong allowance race at Aqueduct. Trainer Richard Mandella's 6-year-old son of A.P. Indy won't be at a class disadvantage, however. Four of his last five starts have come in grade or group I races -- the Santa Anita Handicap (2nd), Dubai World Cup (5th), Hollywood Gold Cup (3rd) and Pacific Classic (8th).

Imperialism is three-for-three at the San Carlos distance and finished eighth in last October's TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I), but he is best known for finishing third behind Smarty Jones in the 2004 Kentucky Derby (gr. I). The 5-year-old gray missed by a nose to Rock Hard Ten in last year's Strub Stakes (gr. II) at 1 1/8 miles.

Surf Cat is a proven sprinter, but the 4-year-old has been idle since October and scored his most impressive victory by five lengths at 1 1/8 miles in last year's Swaps Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) at Hollywood Park.

Major Success is coming off a neck victory over Jet West on Jan. 21 in the Palos Verdes Handicap (gr. II) at six furlongs. It was the third successive win and first in a graded stakes for the son of Mazel Trick trained by Bobby Frankel for Edmund Gann. He has won five of nine starts for earnings of $208,700.

Claimed by trainer Ted West for Bruce Hochman last August at Del Mar for $62,500, Jet West captured his next three starts before photo finish losses in the El Conejo Handicap (gr. III) and the Palos Verdes. His overall record of 7-2-3 in 15 races has netted $317,701.

Congrats, who has earned $978,960 from a career record of 7-2-5 in 22 starts, could become a millionaire for Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider in the San Carlos. Mandella plans to keep him racing around one turn for a while. "Last year I was running him in all the classics," said the Hall of Fame trainer. "This year I want to experiment a bit with one turn and see how he does."

Imperialism, who has banked $899,772 for owner Steve Taub from a 6-5-3 log in 27 races, recorded his last victory in the Grade II Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Handicap at seven furlongs last Aug. 21. That was his first sprint effort in 10 races or since taking the Grade II San Vicente at Santa Anita on Feb. 7, 2004.

Surf Cat went to the sidelines after fading to sixth in last summer's Pacific Classic at Del Mar. It was his first loss by over one-half length in a career that shows a 4-3-0 mark in 8 starts. Trained by Bruce Headley for his wife, Aase, and Marsha Naify, Surf Cat has earned $322,420.

$150,000 San Carlos Handicap (gr. II, Race 8, 4 p.m.), 4 & up, 7 furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight
1. Imperialism, Victor Espinoza, 117
2. Congrats, Tyler Baze, 118
3. Ulistnintome, Martin Pedroza, 112
4. Brand Name, Javier Santiago, 112
5. Oceanus, Omar Berrio, 113
6. Jet West, Garrett Gomez, 118
7. Surf Cat, Alex Solis, 117
8. Major Success, Patrick Valenzuela, 115