04/26/2006 11:00PM

Be a Halo starts fresh in sprint

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AUBURN, Wash. - Be a Halo will be back at his best game in Saturday's featured race at Emerald Downs, a $25,000 optional claiming affair that has drawn a field of 11 older sprinters to run 5 1/2 furlongs.

A 4-year-old son of Halo's Image, Be a Halo was claimed last June at Arlington Park for $50,000 by Paul Heist's Grasshopper Stable. Be a Halo was coming off two wins and two seconds in sprints, but Heist and trainer Jim Penney hoped that he could stretch out to route distances, as Flamethrowintexan had done in 2004 for the same connections. Be a Halo failed to get the 1 1/16 miles of last August's Seattle Slew Handicap, however, and he was turned out after being eased in an optional claiming event at a mile in September.

With a fresh start this spring, Be a Halo has posted a string of fast workouts, and he seems set to regain his best form with the return to sprinting. All 10 of his rivals are also coming off layoffs, so he concedes no fitness edge, and he will be ridden by Julio Felix, who came into this week tied for the lead in the jockey race with Kevin Radke.

Be a Halo figures to be challenged for the early lead by Free Cocktails, who will race coupled with Zona de Impacto in the wagering. Free Cocktails strung together three straight front-running wins for owner Rick Beal and trainer Sharon Ross at last year's stand, before dropping a nose decision in the Stanislaw Ashbaugh Sprint on Oct. 16.