ARCADIA, Calif. -- When Magnum ended an eight-race losing streak in the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 8, the victory capped a remarkable and lengthy comeback.
The San Antonio was Magnum's first stakes win since the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap in May 2006. Between the two wins, Magnum's racing career, and life, changed significantly. He was off for 17 months from October 2006 to March 2008 because of minor injuries, and was gelded last year because of oversized testicles that made it uncomfortable for him to race.
As a gelding, the Argentine-bred Magnum seems to be a different horse, and one on the way to the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap next Saturday. At the ripe old age of 8, Magnum acts like a much younger horse, according to trainer Darrell Vienna.
"He hasn't been used that much," Vienna said.
This will be Magnum's second appearance in the Big Cap. In 2006, making his U.S stakes debut, he was second to Lava Man.
In the San Antonio over 1 1/8 miles, Magnum stalked the pace and won by a length over Well Armed. It was his sixth win in 26 starts.
"It didn't look that hard," Vienna said of the San Antonio.
Owned by Herrick Racing, Magnum worked five furlongs on the infield training track in 1:01.40 on Friday. Vienna timed him in 1:02.20. Through the workout, Vienna's exercise rider kept a strong hold of Magnum.
"He'd have gone in 58," Vienna said. "He loves that training track. He's always worked well, all the time."
Magnum will be part of a large field in the Big Cap, which is run over 1 1/4 miles and is the richest race of the meeting. Vienna would prefer that a little rain gets into Santa Anita's Pro-Ride synthetic track before race day. As of Friday, minimal rain was forecast for the next week.
"About every race he's won has been on a track with moisture in it," Vienna said.
Magnum is the oldest probable starter. Many of his rivals will be half his age. The other probable starters include Blue Exit, Champs Elysees, Colonel John, Court Vision, Cowboy Cal, Dansant, Einstein, Matto Mondo, Monba, Red Rocks, Tiago, and Zambezi Sun.
Red Rocks, 6, the winner of the 2006 Breeders' Cup Turf, is based in Florida with Mark Hennig. Red Rocks's participation in the Big Cap hinges on how he works at Payson Park in Florida this weekend.
Victory Pete leaning toward Kilroe
Three horses - Mast Track, Nownownow, and Victory Pete - are being considered for the Big Cap and the $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf on the same program.
As of Friday, trainer Alexis Barba said the Kilroe was more attractive for Victory Pete, who finished third behind Cowboy Cal and Blue Exit in the Strub Stakes on Feb. 7.
"I think if he settles he can get the mile and a quarter," Barba said. "He likes the grass, too."
Victory Pete has yet to win a stakes, which will be a difficult task in the Grade 1 Kilroe. The race is expected to include Artiste Royale, Dixie Chatter, Global Hunter, Hewitts, Mr Napper Tandy, and the brilliant mare Ventura.
Tasha's Miracle retired
Tasha's Miracle, the winner of two Grade 3 stakes in an 11-race career, has been retired, trainer John Sadler said earlier this week.
A 4-year-old filly, Tasha's Miracle ended her career with a victory in the Grade 3 Harold Ramser Handicap at Santa Anita last October.
Sadler said that a recent nuclear scan revealed minor damage to an ankle.
"To bring her back would have been iffy," he said. "She showed some wear and tear and it was a decision to stop on her and breed her."
Owned by Budget and Team Valor stables, Tasha's Miracle won 3 of 11 starts and $398,452.
Square Eddie making progress
Trainer Doug O'Neill is holding out slim hope that Square Eddie, one of the top 2-year-olds of 2008, can return to training next month after being sidelined with a microfracture of a cannon bone earlier this year.
O'Neill said that Square Eddie is being tack-walked at Hollywood Park and undergoes two sessions of swimming each week. O'Neill acknowledges that time is running out for Square Eddie to have any role in the Triple Crown.
"The timing is terrible," he said. "If this happened in the first part of January, it wouldn't be a problem."
Owned by Paul Reddam, Square Eddie has made one start this year, finishing second to The Pamplemousse in the Grade 3 San Rafael Stakes on Jan. 17. Last year, Square Eddie won the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland and was second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile here.
O'Neill said that Square Eddie has been X-rayed on a weekly basis to check on the progress of the leg.
"The area in the bone that was active, we're seeing that healing," he said. "We're optimistic that we can take him back jogging within the next few weeks."
Major Rock Star may point to derby
Major Rock Star may have earned a shot at the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby after a front-running win in a $52,000 allowance race over 1 1/16 miles in Thursday's third race.
Trainer Mike Mitchell said the Santa Anita Derby on April 4 was an appealing option because Major Rock Star showed he likes the Pro-Ride.
"At least you're not shipping," Mitchell said. "I wouldn't want to ship across the country, but it's in our backyard and it's a synthetic track."
Major Rock Star was making his first start on Thursday since being claimed for $32,000 on Jan. 14. A colt by E Dubai, Major Rock Star has won 4 of 7 starts. Thursday's race was his first start against non-claimers.
Mitchell had an outstanding day on Thursday, winning the two richest races on the eight-race program. Later in the day, he won an optional claimer with a $56,000 purse with You Got Me Rocking, who led throughout over 1 1/8 miles on turf.
Third in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap last August, You Got Me Rocking was making his first start since October. Owned by Jane and Burt Bacharach, You Got Me Rocking may return in the $150,000 San Luis Rey Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf on March 21, Mitchell said.