11/19/2009 12:00AM

Baffert speedster vs. local stars


Northern California's top 2-year-olds and the beaten favorite in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special line up Saturday in what could prove the best stakes of the Golden Gate Fields fall meeting.

The $50,000 Golden Nugget at six furlongs attracted eight runners, including perhaps the two best 2-year-olds in Northern California, multiple stakes winner Our Minesweeper and undefeated Sourdough Sam.

To spice up the affair, trainer Bob Baffert sends Tiny Woods north for his first start since setting the pace and fading to seventh on dirt in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special on Aug. 20. Tiny Woods was a front-running winner in his debut on the Polytrack at Del Mar and wound up preparations for the Golden Nugget, run over the synthetic Tapeta surface, with a 1:12.40 bullet gate drill on the Santa Anita Pro-Ride last Saturday.

With his speed and outside draw, he could prove tough to catch, but he is facing a deep lineup of local runners.

Our Minesweeper won his first three starts, including the Cavonnier on dirt at Santa Rosa and the Bart Heller at a mile at Golden Gate on Sept. 12. He was last in a troubled trip in the four-horse Jack Goodman at Santa Anita on Oct. 31.

Trainer Mike Lenzini said that we probably won't see the best of Our Minesweeper until next year.

"He's going to be a pretty good-sized horse, and he's going to like it going long," said Lenzini. "I'd love to keep him going long. This is probably the last time we'll sprint him."

Sourdough Sam broke very slowly from the rail in a 12-horse field in his debut at Golden Gate, but still managed to win a race that included four next-out winners. Sourdough Sam came back to score an equally impressive victory in allowance company, catching Shudacudawudya late. Runner-up Shudacudawudya and Very Fair, third in that race, are entered Saturday.

"He had to go get a horse that was running on all cylinders," said Dean Pederson, trainer of Sourdough Sam. "That was encouraging."

Also entered are R El Jefe, who won the ATBA Stakes at Turf Paradise; Seven Torrents, who has won two straight; and Tango Tango, an impressive debut winner.

Saturday's race could be the first of a string of matchups between Our Minesweeper and Sourdough Sam, who could meet again in next month's Gold Rush at a mile and in early 3-year-old stakes here.