09/22/2005 12:00AM

Bonfante is in fine shape for turf sprint


SAN MATEO, Calif. - It's pretty nice to have a horse who can look at a $100,000 stakes as a prep for other races.

That's the case for Bonfante's trainer, Steve Specht, who sees Saturday's $100,000 California Turf Sprint Championship at Bay Meadows as a prep for the Cal Cup at Oak Tree.

The five-furlong turf race drew nine entrants, including the defending Cal Cup Sprint champion, Areyoutalkintome, who drew the rail for his turf debut.

Exceeding, drawn outside Bonfante in post 4, is unbeaten in two starts since returning from a 21-month layoff. He, too, is making his turf debut.

The race is competitive and may go to the Cal-bred that gets the best trip in the race.

"It's only five-eighths, and in these races, sometimes things get clogged up," Specht said.

"Going five-eighths, we'll be sitting off the pace early. Hopefully, we'll find some room turning for home, but I'm sure that's what they're hoping for with Areyoutalkintome."

was scheduled to run in the California Turf Championship at one mile here on Labor Day. He had a slight problem when he was re-shod for the race, and Specht scratched him on race day.

"My ultimate goal is running in the Cal Cup," Specht said. "A couple days before [the Turf Championship], he was back on his toes, but if I ran in that race and had a poor effort, I probably couldn't have run in this spot."

Bonfante has won three straight stakes and has not earned a Beyer Speed Figure lower than 96 since returning to northern California this spring.

Specht is pleased with his works this month, particularly a five-furlong drill in 59 seconds flat on Sept. 17, the best of 23 at the distance.

While Bonfante is at the top of his game, he will have to maintain his recent form to win here.

has not won since an allowance victory at Santa Anita on March 20, but he won the Grade 3 El Conejo and was third in the Sunshine Millions Sprint, both at Santa Anita in January. He is a bit quicker than Bonfante early and has good turn speed, just as Bonfante does.

figures to be a bit of a price here, but his turf breeding is excellent, and he was a distant second in his lone stakes try before his comeback.