12/16/2010 3:54PM

Central City, Due Date top deep field of turf sprinters in Bonapaw

Barbara D. Livingston
Central City, a front-runner who finished second in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, will race without blinkers in Saturday's Bonapaw.

Central City finished second in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, while Due Date was a close and troubled sixth in the same race. Saturday at Fair Grounds, both horses start in the Bonapaw Stakes, a turf sprint with a field soaring far beyond its $60,000 purse.

“This is a lot of race for a little money,” said trainer Tom Amoss, who will send Grade 2 winner Backtalk to his turf debut in the 5 1/2-furlong Bonapaw.

The Bonapaw is one of five such $60,000 stakes Saturday at Fair Grounds, and boasting an 11-horse field packed with talent it’s the deepest of the quintet. The Bonapaw goes as race 9, preceded by the Esplanade for older female sprinters (race 3), the Letellier for 2-year-old sprinters (race 6), the Tenacious for older-male routers (race 8), and followed by the Sugar Bowl for 2-year-old male sprinters.

Central City, once a $10,000 maiden-claimer, rose up to become an elite turf sprinter in 2010, his strong campaign capped by a pacesetting, runner-up finish in the BC Turf Sprint. But Central City’s two strong starts last season at Fair Grounds both came in off-the-turf races, and trainer Ronny Werner is concerned that the local grass course will play against his fast front-runner.

“This track really doesn’t suit him,” Werner said. “It’s kind of a closers’ course, normally, and this is a deep field, a tough field.”

Central City races with an equipment change Saturday, with Werner removing the horse’s blinkers.

“Maybe he can relax a little more,” said Werner. “It’s something that if we’re going to try it, why not try it now?”

Due Date has the kind of late-running style that often suits the Fair Grounds course, but was sixth, sixth, and eighth in three turf starts last Fair Grounds season.

”I know his races last year were mediocre, but he’s certainly a better horse coming into this year,” said trainer Steve Margolis. “He’s certainly trained good since he got over here.”

Due Date missed catching Central City by a head in the Woodford Stakes at Keeneland this past fall, and after getting away 11th in the BC Turf Sprint, he found traffic trouble on the turn.

“I think he would have been a lot closer without getting stopped,” Margolis said.

Backtalk has won just 1 of 7 starts in 2010 after capturing the Grade 2 Sanford in 2009, but finished a sharp second to Noble’s Promise last out, and is bred to take to grass.

“I worked him on turf at Churchill, and it was a very good work,” Amoss said.