ARCADIA, Calif. -- The seven-furlong distance of the Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita last month was the undoing of Attila's Storm. After battling for the lead until midstretch, Attila's Storm could not get by Proud Tower Too, who edged away to win by a length.
Saturday, Attila's Storm returns in the Grade 2, $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap, and the six-furlong distance is firmly on his side.
The shorter distance of the Palos Verdes has given trainer Richard Schosberg confidence that Attila's Storm can win the second stakes of his career.
"I think he's better at six furlongs," Schosberg said.
Attila's Storm, 4, has four wins in seven starts at six furlongs. Last fall, he finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Belmont Park in October and later won the Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct in November.
Schosberg said the Malibu result still stings him, even though Attila's Storm ran well in finishing second.
"Turning for home, I would have given you anything that we would win. It looks like the last 70 yards were too much for him," Schosberg said. "It looked to me like there was no excuse from the half-mile pole to the wire. The other horse ran a good race. I thought for sure we had him."
Since the Malibu, Attila's Storm has worked twice, including a half-mile in 45.80 seconds on Jan. 10, the fastest of 31 recorded works at the distance.
"It was a little quicker than we were anticipating, but he came out of it in good order," Schosberg said.
As the workout showed, Attila's Storm has ample speed, which could give him an advantage in the Palos Verdes.
"The main thing is to come out of the gate sharp," Schosberg said. "He was off a step slow in the Malibu - for him."
Of the other contenders, Major Success, who is making his stakes debut, has speed, but other top hopefuls such as Jet West and With Distinction are more likely to race from off the pace.
Jet West, claimed for $62,500 in August, has won 3 of 4 starts for owner Bruce Hochman and trainer Ted West. Jet West, 5, won the California Cup Sprint in November and finished a fast-closing third in the Grade 3 El Conejo Handicap over 5 1/2 furlongs on Jan. 2.
With Distinction won the El Conejo; he ran closer to a scorching pace than Jet West that day. The victory marked With Distinction's first stakes win in his 10th attempt.