07/27/2006 11:00PM

Crosby a West Coast coronation

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PHOENIX - There has been a heat wave in California the past week or so and there's going to be plenty more heat in Sunday's Grade 1 Bing Crosby Handicap at Del Mar. And more than merely the top prize is on the line. Whoever can survive what figures to be a crushing pace will likely stamp himself king of the West and a major player for the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Let's examine each horse in post position order:

Pure as Gold - Real nice, hard-trying horse, and they plunked down $100,000 to claim him last time. Trainer Jack Carava now places him right in the deep end of the pool. He gave Crosby entrant Premium Saltine fits last time, and the time before he was less than two lengths behind Siren Lure in the Grade 3 Los Angeles. Wouldn't Siren Lure be dangerous here? Pure as Gold is stuck on the rail and will likely have to go around everyone to get the job done. Is that asking just a bit too much?

Trickey Trevor - You don't win 18 of 37 by accident, so you know he's a warrior. He has usually done it with speed, but that's why his Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap win May 6 on the Kentucky Derby undercard was so compelling - it showed that at age 7 he could change his stripes. He showed a new dimension that day, stalking the pace and then blasting home. A return to that style would serve him very well here, what with the four horses to his outside all being sizzlers. But how do you treat his poor race last out in the Grade 1 Triple Bend? Was it merely a dud to be excused, or is it a signal he might be going the other way?

Premium Saltine - Considering he hadn't run in seven-plus months, his win at Hollywood on June 14 was a beaut. Sure, the 101 Beyer doesn't quite measure up here, but it gives him a good base from which to vault forward, and remember in 2005 he was posting numbers in the Midwest that certainly would put him in the mix with these runners. He has speed, but he has also shown he can pass

horses, meaning he likely won't mind if the three to his outside prove a tad quicker and outrun him early. Then it's a question of class.

Battle Won - He finished second in this race last year, and has been a warrior for a long time. He couldn't quite handle Siren Lure at Hollywood last time, but that was going seven furlongs in the Grade 1 Triple Bend and this race is at six furlongs. Still, he hasn't passed a horse in a dirt sprint in nearly 15 months. If he can't pass horses then he needs to outrun them early. Can he outkick the outside two in the early going?

Bordonaro - Considered by some the division leader, and why not? He has won in Southern California, Florida, and Arkansas, and his last four Beyers are 115, 106, 115, and 111. He has won eight of 10 starts, so he knows how to get the job done. He has been off since winning the Grade 3 Count Fleet at Oaklawn on April 13. Trainer Bill Spawr isn't the type to hammer on them in the mornings, but this horse worked six furlongs in 1:10 at Santa Anita on July 13. Consider that work his prep for this race. No doubt he has speed and

quality, but he's going to be hounded from both sides every step of the way, and while it's not his fault that he hasn't beaten any sprint monsters, it does make you wonder how he stacks up against a Carthage or Battle Won, doesn't it?

Carthage - Another win machine, and like Bordonaro just seems to be getting better. He had no trouble handling Lost in the Fog in April, had no trouble handling Trickey Trevor in June. Not only is he fresh, but he won the only time he set foot on this track. Speed's his game and the draw may be crucial here. His outside draw can allow him to apply the pressure to Bordonaro and the others inside of him. If he clears them he can cut over in front. If he's only marginally ahead or even with them he can hem them in. If he's just behind (and he won't be any farther back than that I assure you) he can be breathing down their necks. Whatever the scenario, it works for him. But can he continue to shine away from northern California, against maybe the best sprinter in the land?

My answer to that last question is, yes. Carthage has come of age. He's fast, he's a fighter, and the clincher may have come when the posts were drawn.