03/14/2009 12:00AM

Bel Air Sizzle faces significant hurdles


ARCADIA, Calif. - Bel Air Sizzle will be easy to find Sunday in the $125,000 Irish O'Brien Stakes at Santa Anita. She'll be the one trailing the field early in the turf sprint.

Nine fillies and mares bred in California, including five sired by Unusual Heat, entered the 6 1/2-furlong stakes that is race 4. With a $412,366 bankroll, Bel Air Sizzle currently ranks as the ninth-leading progeny of Unusual Heat, and on Sunday she is the class of the field.

However, Bel Air Sizzle's entire 5-for-17 career has been in two-turn races, and trainer Barry Abrams admits a turf sprint "is not the ideal spot for her. She's not a sprinter, but she's a Cal-bred and where else am I going to run her?"

Compounding the distance challenge facing deep closer Bel Air Sizzle is a course profile that has favored speed all winter. In order for Bel Air Sizzle to win the Irish O'Brien, she will do it the hard way.

"If she stays within 10 to 15 lengths she can win because she can come home in 22 seconds," Abrams said. "She can make up 10 lengths, but she's not going to make up 20 lengths. And if she runs one-two-three, it will be a good workout for the Santa Ana."

Abrams plans to wheel back the 4-year-old Bel Air Sizzle next Sunday in the Grade 2 Santa Ana Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile grass race. Those plans are subject to change.

Abrams said "if she runs really hard and wins, I may not run" Bel Air Sizzle in the Santa Ana.

Bel Air Sizzle's main rival is Onebadkitty. They shared a dead-heat win Feb. 21 in the Valentine Dancer at one mile, although Bel Air Sizzle was much best. She was blocked most of the final quarter-mile, found a seam late, and was up for the tie.

The shorter distance of the Irish O'Brien favors Onebadkitty, a sprinter with 3 wins from 8 starts for trainer Brian Koriner. Although not a front-runner, Onebadkitty has more speed than Bel Air Sizzle.

Others in the Irish O'Brien include Gambler's Justice, Waveline, Christiana's Heat, Burna Dette, Unusual Sprit and Swiss Diva. Flashover entered, but is expected to scratch.

The Irish O'Brien will be run on the 12th anniversary of the U.S. debut of Unusual Heat, a European-raced son of Nureyev that Abrams and partners claimed for $80,000 and later developed into the leading California stallion.