Updated on 09/16/2011 8:29AM

BC Countdown - Sprint: Thunderello, Lake ready to jump in


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - A pair of unexpected pre-entries from the barn of trainer Scott Lake has virtually assured a full field of 14 will once again contest the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Until Lake pre-entered the lightly raced Thunderello and former claimer My Cousin Matt, it appeared the 2002 Sprint would be the first edition decided with less than a full field since only 13 started at Woodbine in 1996.

Division leader Orientate topped the list of 16 pre-entries for the Sprint and is one of two horses trainer D. Wayne Lukas plans to run in the race, along with the 3-year-old Day Trader.

Among the other pre-entrants are Xtra Heat, Swept Overboard, and Kona Gold, the second-, fourth- and seventh-place finishers behind Squirtle Squirt in the 2001 Sprint.

Xtra Heat is one of three fillies and mares who will contest the Sprint, along with Kalookan Queen and Carson Hollow, a 3-year-old.

Kona Gold, who won the 2000 Sprint, tops a strong Southern California contingent that includes Kalookan Queen, Swept Overboard, Disturbingthepeace, Crafty C.T., and D'wildcat.

The other prospective starters are Gygistar, Bonapaw, Wake at Noon, and Touch Tone.

Lake still needs some help for either of his horses to start in the Breeders' Cup. Thunderello would get in only if one of the other 14 candidates was not entered when the race is drawn next Wednesday. My Cousin Matt needs two defections to run.

Lake's chances of saddling his first Breeders' Cup starter were enhanced when Gygistar suffered a deep cut on his left front hoof after grabbing himself in his stall last Friday.

"At this point we're not very optimistic," trainer Mark Hennig said Thursday. "There has been some improvement but the gash was a nasty thing and there is no way it will fully heal before the race. He hasn't been back to the track and the only way he'll start is if we can find some way to protect it so he can train and run."

If Thunderello starts he will add to what already figures to be a blistering pace scenario. The 3-year-old had his career sidetracked for a full year after suffering a soft-tissue injury following his second start at 2. He has won his last two starts since returning in September, including Philadelphia Park's Gallant Bob Handicap.

"We've thought about running Thunderello in the Sprint the whole time, but didn't know if we'd get there or not," said Lake. "He's better than ever now, and if he had nine or 10 starts under his belt it would be a no-brainer. With only five [starts] we were on the fence, but his effort in the Gallant Bob was so good he deserves the chance."

Edgar Prado will ride Thunderello if he draws into the Sprint.

My Cousin Matt has won his last three starts. He was claimed by Lake for owner Richard Englander for $85,000 at Belmont three weeks ago.

"The owner said if you don't mind I'd like to take a shot," said Lake.