Crafty C.T., a consistent sprinter who has finished first, second or third in 11 of 13 career starts, returns to action Sunday in the $200,000 San Carlos Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park.The seven-furlong San Carlos features a field of seven with the Howard Zucker-trained Crafty C.T. and the Bobby Frankel-conditioned Aldebaran sharing top weight at 116 pounds.Crafty C.T. closed out a strong 2002 campaign with third place finishes in the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Oct. 26 and the Cigar Mile (both gr. I) on Nov. 30. His last local start was a second to the mare Kalookan Queen in the Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I) on Oct. 5 at the Oak Tree meeting."It's his first race off a layoff so we have to do something with him," said Zucker, who trains Crafty C.T. for owner Carl Grether of Pasadena. "We had a little detour when I thought we could get an allowance race to go for him, but when that failed to fill, we're here, so we've got to be really ready to run with these horses. He'll be 85-90 percent cranked up."Patrick Valenzuela, the meet's leading rider, has the mount on Crafty C.T. A 5-year-old Kentucky-bred by Crafty Prospector, Crafty C.T. has a record of 4-3-4 from 13 starts and earnings of $724,845.Aldebaran also hasn't raced since competing in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. The 5-year-old Kentucky-bred by Mr. Prospector edged out Crafty C.T. for second place, and that was all too familiar a result for the bay horse. Aldebaran has finished second in 11 of his last 14 races and has an overall mark of 3-11-2 from 17 starts and earnings of $628,561.Frankel hasn't guaranteed Aldebaran will be in the starting gate on Sunday. "It all depends on the weather," he said, indicating an "off" track might result in a scratch.Other contenders include venerable Grey Memo and relative newcomer Total Limit. Grey Memo has earned over $1.4 million in a 43-race career that includes a victory in the $1-million Godolphin Mile, but is winless in 12 starts at Santa Anita. Total Limit is 3-2-0 from five starts and finished second against 3-year-olds in the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) on Dec. 26.
Mellow Fellow, a confirmed stretch runner, will hope for a fast pace as he seeks to end a seven-race winless streak. Rounding out the field is two-time stakes winner Roman Dancer and Shah Jehan, a $4.4-million yearling who has won only two of 19 career starts.$200,000 San Carlos Handicap (gr. I), 4 & up, 7 furlongs
PP. Horse, Rider, Wgt.
1. Roman Dancer, Julie Krone, 113
2. Crafty C.T., Patrick Valenzuela, 116
3. Mellow Fellow, Laffit Pincay Jr., 114
4. Grey Memo, Gary Stevens, 115
5. Shah Jehan, Mike Smith, 109
6. Total Limit, Victor Espinoza, 112
7. Aldebaran, Jose Valdivia Jr., 116