Updated on 09/16/2011 7:00AM

California shippers formidable in Pelleteri


NEW ORLEANS - They were lined up, saying farewell, good luck, and good riddance, as the van carrying Bonapaw from Fair Grounds to Dubai pulled away last week. Sunday, Bonapaw will be training at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse in Dubai, pushing closer to a start in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen. The local sprinters he left behind will be running in the $150,000 Pelleteri Breeders' Cup Handicap.

And they are in no way disappointed to see Bonapaw gone, since he has won three of the four sprint stakes for older horses at this meet by a combined 13 3/4 lengths. But Bonapaw's chief rivals, Abajo, Crucible, and Robin de Nest, face new challenges from Early Flyer and Explicit, who flew to New Orleans from Southern California earlier this week.

Explicit's early speed compromises Abajo, who might have gotten loose on the lead with Bonapaw in a different part of the world. Early Flyer's class might compromise everyone, since the colt has enough talent to have finished second in the Grade 1 De Francis Dash last November.

The problem is that Early Flyer's three races since the De Francis haven't been nearly as good. Early Flyer was eighth in the Malibu, then third and fourth in a pair of allowance races, each time at 4-5. But there are reasons to expect improvement. Early Flyer has been treated for ulcers since his last start, trainer Ron McAnally said, and he will race with blinkers for the first time.

"He's been working well with them," McAnally said. "He's been doing well. The farm manager and owner thought this would be the best spot for him. There are no other options for him [in California]."

If he's anywhere close to his best, Early Flyer, who is owned by Verne Winchell and will be ridden by Craig Perret, should win the Pelleteri. With Abajo and Explicit dueling on the lead, Early Flyer, a Grade 2 winner and natural stalker at six furlongs, will get a positive pace setup and should have every chance to catch the tiring speed.

But those two allowance flops and a substantial ship will deter many players.

Abajo paid the price for battling Bonapaw early in his last race, the Taylor's Special Handicap, and will be a threat to lead all the way if he can shake loose from Explicit.

Crucible, who ran late to finish second in the Taylor's Special, and Robin De Nest, the reformed claimer who won the Gaudin Handicap here earlier in the meet, are the logical off-the-pace alternatives to Early Flyer.

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