ARCADIA, Calif. -- The 2008 season nearly ended in glory for Big Booster.
Throughout last year, trainer Mike Mitchell had the Breeders' Cup Marathon as a long-term goal for Big Booster. In that race at 1 1/2 miles last October, Big Booster closed well to finish third, beaten just three-quarters of a length.
The whole process begins anew in the $100,000 Tokyo City Handicap at Santa Anita on Saturday. Once again, Mitchell has the BC Marathon as a long-term goal for Big Booster. Once again, Mitchell is convinced that the 8-year-old gelding will be a major factor in that division through the year.
"It's an important race if you plan to run in the Breeders' Cup race," Mitchell said of the Tokyo City.
Big Booster was turned out briefly following the 2008 BC Marathon. Mitchell has had the Tokyo City as a goal for months.
"I've mapped this all out and have given him plenty of time," he said. "I gave it some extra time if I had some trouble with his feet, and I didn't."
Big Booster has won 10 of 47 starts and $788,623. He won two stakes last year - the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano at about 1 3/4 miles on turf here in April and the Gallant Man Handicap at 1 5/8 miles on the main track at Hollywood Park in June.
Mitchell trains three of the eight runners in the Grade 3 Tokyo City. Big Booster is the 119-pound topweight and the trainer's best chance.
"Big Booster is the class," he said.
Mitchell's other starters are Dynamalt and Fire Wood, who have yet to win a stakes. Fire Wood won an optional claimer at 1 1/4 miles on Feb. 5, a race in which he could have been claimed for $40,000.
"All three can get the distance," Mitchell said. "I'm not worried about that at all. I'd love to run one-two-three. Even better, I'd love to dead-heat for the win."
Zappa, trained by John Sadler, will thrive at the distance. Zappa won the Cougar II Handicap going 1 1/2 miles at Del Mar last July but was only seventh in the BC Marathon. Zappa finished second in the Turf Paradise Handicap on grass last month.
The Tokyo City will be the stakes debut of Kizzy's Chaos, a former maiden claimer who is racing 1 1/2 miles for the first time.
"He wants to go long on dirt," trainer Vladimir Cerin said. "I'd like for him to hit the board. It would give us something to look forward to."