10/05/2004 11:00PM

Clock Stopper, Champali square off


Three months ago, by a nose in the $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder. Friday, the two sprinters meet again in the Grade 3, $250,000 Phoenix Breeders' Cup at Keeneland and, again, little separates them.

Although less money is up for grabs, the stakes are no less high. Their performances Friday - and those of the other nine starters in the field - could determine whether they warrant running in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Lone Star Park Oct. 30.

The test for Champali earning a Breeders' Cup start is clear. "He is going to have to win," trainer Greg Foley said.

Dallas Stewart, who trains the late-running Clock Stopper, has no such definitive criteria. "I'm not going to say we're not going to go if he doesn't run well," he said.

Both sprinters possess Breeders' Cup credentials. Champali is a multiple graded stakes winner of over $905,000. Clock Stopper is tested against the nation's best, having been second in his last two starts behind Speightstown and Midas Eyes at Saratoga.

Following those runner-up finishes - which came in the Grade 2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt and Grade 1 Forego handicaps - Clock Stopper is expected to start as a narrow favorite in the six-furlong Phoenix.

He will attract the attention of speed-figure handicappers. Clock Stopper has earned Beyer Speed Figures of 111, 113, and 109 over his last three races, with the latter figure coming in his most recent race, the Forego on Sept. 4. The last 10 winners of this race have earned an average Beyer of 109 in the Phoenix. Pat Day, the winningest jockey in Keeneland history, rides.

Champali has not consistently run as fast as Clock Stopper, but his record and bankroll are best among the field's 11 starters. In four head-to-head matchups, each has finished in front of the other two times.

After his nose victory over Clock Stopper at Calder, Champali has raced once, finishing a distant third at 3-5 behind Gold Storm and Super Fuse in the Arlington Sprint Breeders' Cup on Aug. 28. Those rivals return in the Phoenix.

In the Phoenix, Champali will be reunited with Foley's go-to rider, Rafael Bejarano. Through Tuesday, Bejarano has ridden 51 of the 59 winners that Foley has trained this year.

Other notable starters include recent stakes winners Wildcat Heir, Private Horde, and Canadian Frontier.