09/27/2006 11:00PM

Abundance of speed in Sprint benefits Likely


Speed is an asset in the overwhelming majority of sprint races, but in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Kentucky Cup Sprint at Turfway, it could prove to be a detriment. At least half of the 12 3-year-old entrants in six-furlong Sprint are front-runners, seemingly setting the stage for a horse to rally successfully from off the pace.

The abundance of speed plays to the strengths of several stalkers in the field, led by the stakes winner Likely.

In winning the Lafayette by nine lengths this April at Keeneland, Likely rallied from 2 1/2 lengths behind the early pace. And his other victory, which came at Turfway in a maiden race in March, was accomplished in similar fashion.

Despite coming off a neck loss when second to Kentucky Cup Sprint starter Cognac Kisses in a Turfway Park allowance race Sept. 10, he looms a clear favorite, in great part because of his winning connections of trainer Patrick Biancone and jockey Julien Leparoux. The Sept. 10 race marked Likely's first start since finishing fifth in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup on June 10.

"He's had some very bad shins," said Biancone. "He just needed some time. His comeback race was just that - a comeback race."

Ghosttrapper and Island Warrior appear to pose the greatest threats to Likely. Ghosttrapper, a runaway winner of his last two starts, has posted Beyer Speed Figures of 90 or higher in four of his last five races. And Island Warrior comes off a third-place finish in a Saratoga allowance race behind Latent Heat, who placed in a pair of graded stakes earlier this year.

The Kentucky Cup Sprint has been won by two horses who later won the Breeders' Cup Sprint: Reraise (1998) and Cajun Beat (2003).

Juvenile: Distance test for 'Sherman'

Two other Kentucky Cup races, the Grade 3 Juvenile and the ungraded Juvenile Fillies, provide glimpses to the future.

Shermanesque, a son of Fusaichi Pegasus and a half-brother to 1997 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and champion Countess Diana, is the headliner of the $100,000 Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles. Second in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor and third in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, he is the most battle-tested horse in the field.

What he has not done is race a distance of ground. His longest race has been the 6 1/2-furlong Saratoga Special, a race he lost by 7 1/4 lengths to Chace City.

Izzie's Halo, Shore, and Hey Bill have not raced against the same level of competition, but all three have run well around two turns. Izzie's Halo ran a close second in the Cradle Stakes at River Downs on Labor Day, and Shore and Hey Bill ran one-two in a mile allowance race at Turfway Sept. 9.

Juvenile Fillies: Spa winners meet

Although none of the entrants in the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile fillies has placed in a stakes race, the race appears to feature a talented group. Kauai Calls, Cherokee Sheik, and Whatdreamsrmadeof - three fillies who won at Saratoga this summer - figure to attract the bulk of the public's support, with Kauai Calls perhaps starting as a mild favorite.

A $2 million yearling purchase by Fusaichi Pegasus, Kauai Calls won a maiden race by two lengths at Saratoga on July 30 and followed that win with a 1 1/4-length score over Cherokee Sheik in a first-level allowance Aug. 31.

Whatdreamsrmadeof makes her first start for trainer Tom Amoss after being purchased privately by owners Susan and Clinton Atkins. She won her only race by 9 1/2 lengths vs. New York-breds at Saratoga on Aug. 28.