07/17/2008 12:00AM

Bold Start on verge of landmark win


With nearly $350,000 in career earnings, it might seem a bit surprising that Bold Start has never won a stakes race from 21 starts. Trainer Ken McPeek believes that statistical oddity could end on Saturday, when Bold Start goes postward as the horse to beat in the $50,000 Don Bernhardt Memorial Stakes at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky.

"He's been Mr. Steady," said McPeek. "We've tried a little of this and that, a little of everything with him. I think he's settled in with age and learned how to run."

Bold Start, owned by Larry Carroll, has been tried at a variety of distances and surfaces, but McPeek thinks a terrific recent series of races for the 4-year-old colt has come to mean he is most effective in shorter races on the dirt.

"We've finally found his niche with the sprinting, I think," said McPeek. "He's ready to go, and this looks like a really good spot for him. We're pretty excited about this race."

Bold Start, with Larry Melancon to ride, will break from post 4 in the Bernhardt, a 6 1/2-furlong race that drew nine older horses. Bold Start, a six-time winner in his career, recorded his two best Beyer Speed Figures (104 and 101) in allowance sprints on the main track at the recently ended Churchill Downs spring meet.

Maybe the chief threat to Bold Start in the Bernhardt is the horse who will line up just to his inside in post 3 - Cougar Cat, a 6-year-old trying to snap a nine-race losing streak. Although he has struggled somewhat in recent outings, Cougar Cat registered three straight triple-digit Beyers last summer, making him dangerous with his best.

Others to consider are Itsallboutthechase, who makes an intriguing turn-back to a sprint following a long series of route attempts; Officer Rocket, who defeated Bold Start in a June 4 allowance at Churchill when rallying up the rail to win by a desperate head; and True Course, a sharp recent winner at Churchill for the high-percentage team of owners Richard, Bert, and Elaine Klein and trainer Steve Margolis.

Completing the field are First Regent, Art and Soul, Stryker, and Parioli's Trick.

The Bernhardt is the 10th of 11 races on a Saturday card that starts at 12:40 p.m.