Trainer Dan Hendricks hopes a better trip, more pace and the addition of blinkers will make a major difference for Runaway Dancer.
The gray son of Runaway Groom, to be ridden by Alex Solis, is one of the contenders in Saturday's $200,000 San Luis Rey Handicap (gr. IIT) for older horses at 1 ½ miles on turf at Santa Anita. Eleven were entered.He won the Carleton F. Burke Handicap (gr. IIIT) at 1 1/2 mile at Santa Anita in October. Runaway Dancer was off slowly but closed well, as is his style, to finish fifth in the 12-furlong San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. IIT) on Feb. 16.
"He slipped out of the gate and was back 20 lengths," trainer Dan Hendricks said. "He made up 10 lengths when they were running :23 and :22 the last two quarters, so how fast did he go? He was running over the top of them. He just needs some pace.
"His works have been sharp since I put blinkers on him. He's training great and hopefully we won't be back 20 lengths."
Special Matter, a bargain $12,500 claim more than two years ago, will try his favorite distance.
"He's been doing well at that ( 1 1/2-mile) distance," trainer Rafael Becerra said. "Last year he was second in the race. He's doing real well. He'll give a good account of himself."
Special Matter, a 6-year-old Florida-bred son of River Special, was third, beaten only a length, in the Sunshine Millions Turf at 1 1/8 miles on Jan. 24.
Trainer Ben Cecil expects an improved effort from Researched in the San Luis Rey. The 5-year-old Danehill gelding pressed the pace before fading to eighth in the San Luis Obispo.
"He needs to be covered up," Cecil said. "Every time he ran prominently in Europe that's how he ran. Pressing the pace is not his style."
Versatile Puerto Banus, the co-high weight Saturday with 116 pounds, has won at distances from 1 1/16 miles on the main track to a mile and a half on turf. Victor Espinoza, who rode him to victory in a blanket finish in the 1 ½-mile San Luis Obispo, thinks the marathon distance on grass is ideal for the 5-year-old son of Supremo.
"A mile and a half is better for him," Espinoza said. "Actually, he can run any distance. It all depends on what position he's in. The farther he goes the closer he is. When he runs shorter, he comes from further back. But he's good right now.
"He can go either way. It all depends on the pace and there should be a good one in this race with a full field. The more horses the better for him. But in any case, he's got a really, really strong kick."$200,000 San Luis Rey (gr. IIT), 4 & up, 1 1/2 mile on turf
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Researched (IRE), 114, Emile Ramsammy
2. Asong for Billy (KY), 113, Eric Saint-Martin
3. Toccet (KY), 113, Martin A. Pedroza
4. Runaway Dancer (KY), 113, Alex O. Solis
5. White Buck (FL), 112, Corey S. Nakatani
6. Meteor Storm (GB), 115, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
7. Special Matter (FL), 114, Tyler Baze
8. Labirinto (FL), 114, Javier Santiago
9. Gene de Campeao (BRZ), 112, Omar A. Berrio
10. Puerto Banus (KY), 116, Victor Espinoza
11. Continental Red (CA), 116, Gary L. Stevens