Updated on 09/15/2011 12:45PM

Bonapaw best of the speedballs

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Bonapaw

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Having admired him from afar, Albert Stall has become even more enamored with Bonapaw now that he has gotten up close and personal with the speedy sprinter.

"He's what you think, smooth as silk, very athletic, he's got a lot of natural class,' said Stall, who took over Bonapaw's training three weeks ago.

Stall hopes Bonapaw's class will be on display Sunday at Saratoga when he takes on Men's Exclusive, Five Star Day, and Delaware Township in the Grade 2, $200,000 A.G. Vanderbilt Handicap. The Vanderbilt is run at six furlongs and serves a prep for the Grade 2,

6 1/2-furlong Forego on Sept. 1.

Bonapaw has won 11 of 23 career starts, highlighted by the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn in April. That was the first time he raced outside of Louisiana. He enters the Vanderbilt in excellent form following a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap on May 5 and a win in the Iowa Sprint Handicap on July 4.

Bonapaw earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 117 in the Iowa Sprint, but Stall said the horse hardly exerted himself in the race.

"It was the easiest possible race you could possibly imagine,' Stall said. "The race was just a common gallop for him.'

While Stall is just getting familiar with Bonapaw, he brings in regular rider Gerard Melancon from Louisiana Downs to ride. "The horse is a little bit quirky to ride, it's a good horse to know,' Stall said.

Bonapaw, who will break from post 6 under 117 pounds, looks to be the speed of the speed in a race that features front-runners Five Star Day and Shadow Caster. If Bonapaw is softened up on the lead, Men's Exclusive and Delaware Township have the best chance for an upset.

Men's Exclusive has run three times this year with mixed results. After winning the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Handicap at Santa Anita, Men's Exclusive finished second behind Caller One in the Dubai Golden Shaheen. In his most recent start, the True North Handicap at Belmont, Men's Exclusive finished sixth, beaten 2 1/4 lengths by Say Florida Sandy.

Trainer Wesley Ward was hoping to get Men's Exclusive farther off the pace that day, but the 8-year-old gelding was too fresh. Ward hopes jockey Mark Guidry is able to get Men's Exclusive four or five lengths off the pace on Sunday.

"This horse is going to run huge," Ward said. "When he trains as good as he's training now it takes a really tough horse to beat him."