Updated on 09/16/2011 9:22AM

This closer can home in on the speed

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Trainer Larry Ross was encouraged as he surveyed the nomination list for Saturday's $100,000 California Sprint Championship at Bay Meadows.

The six-furlong sprint drew 10 nominees, and nine of the 10 routinely run the opening half-mile in the 44-second range.

Radar Contact, trained by Ross, is the lone true closer among the nominees.

"There appears to be a lot of speed," he said.

But, Ross added, Radar Contact is coming off a "bad race."

He blames himself for that bad race - a 12th-place finish in the Longacres Mile, in which Radar Contact didn't beat a single horse and was beaten by 14 1/2 lengths.

"I may have run a short horse," he said.

Ross generally runs his horses at Emerald Downs in Washington during the summer and brings a string to northern California when that track is shut down during the winter.

In his first two starts of the year, Radar Contact finished second behind Mellow Fellow in the Montclair Handicap and third behind Echo Eddie in the Ken Maddy Sprint Handicap, both at Golden Gate.

He was given a break and returned to Washington after the Ken Maddy on Feb. 23 and made his comeback on Aug. 4, finishing fourth in the Governor's Handicap at Emerald Downs.

Ross entered him in the Longacres Mile on Aug. 25 because Radar Contact's owners, who race as G & N Thoroughbreds, are from Washington and the Mile is the premier event at the Seattle-area track.

"I'm assuming he wasn't up for a mile," said Ross, who says he will likely keep Radar Contact, a 6-year-old Flying Continental gelding, in sprints from now on.

Radar Contact encountered trouble at the break and never really got into the race.

"He took care of himself, and we just took our lumps," Ross said. "He came out of the Mile in great shape. He seems to be sharp."

Ross said that jockey Ricky Frazier had ridden Radar Contact in a workout this week "and said he's never been better. This race comes in good order for him, five weeks after the Mile."

Over the past year, closers such as Mellow Fellow and Profound Secret have turned in a series of big victories on the northern California circuit.

Radar Contact has a stakes win himself, closing well to edge Rio Oro by a head in the Albany Handicap at Golden Gate Fields last Dec. 1.

And the Cal-bred may have another proverbial ace up his sleeve.

"Maybe he's back home now," Ross said. "He's never won a race at Emerald Downs."

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