10/18/2001 12:00AM

American System one fast sprinter

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Three weeks removed from an impressive maiden win, American System will try to win his first stakes when he heads a field of five in the $75,000 Sunny Slope Stakes for 2-year-olds on Saturday at Santa Anita.

The six-furlong race has attracted horses whose careers are likely to be confined to one turn. Ecstatic and Roman Dancer shorten up after pressing the pace and fading in the one-mile Norfolk, while northern California shipper Cappuchino arrives after a strong allowance win at Bay Meadows. Fairplex Park allowance winner Crooked Key appears overmatched in a race that is American System's to lose.

American System debuted July 21 at Del Mar and finished third after being compromised by a horrendous trip. From there, things got worse. He was rushed and then faded in a seven-furlong sprint second time out, and followed that with a two-turn experiment. "I ran him a mile, and he ran worse," said trainer Eduardo Inda. "He showed me right there he might be a sprinter for now."

Inda brought American System back to Santa Anita, freshened him, added blinkers, and cut him back to a sprint. A son of American Chance, American System delivered, winning a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race with a 97 Beyer Speed Figure. "The blinkers really made the difference, too," Inda noted.

American System is drawn comfortably in post 4 Saturday, and a repeat of his maiden win should be good enough to win the Sunny Slope.

However, at least three of American System's rivals Saturday have winning credentials. Roman Dancer won his debut gate to wire, was overmatched and finished fourth in the Grade 1 Hopeful (won by Came Home), and tired in the Norfolk. He cuts back to one turn Saturday for trainer Chris Paasch, and will apply pressure to American System from the outside.

Ecstatic also drops out of the one-mile Norfolk, in which he got rank, never relaxed, and faded to fourth. "We tried to take him back, but he wouldn't do it," trainer Bob Baffert said. "I was a little leery of him going that far."

A son of Rahy, Ecstatic won his first two starts, both sprints, and will not be rated in the Sunny Slope.

Cappuchino arrives from Bay Meadows following a pace-pressing allowance win, his second in two starts. Crooked Key also won an allowance race last time, though the Beyer Speed Figure he earned (64) in the Fairplex win does not compare well to those of his Sunny Slope foes.

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