07/23/2013 3:50PM

Del Mar: Goldencents to keep it short for O'Neill, with Bing Crosby next

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Barbara D. Livingston
After winning the Santa Anita Derby, Goldencents ran 17th in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the ­Preakness. His trainer, Doug O’Neill, has been quite impressed with his workout performances.

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Goldencents left California for the Kentucky Derby in late April as the state's leading 3-year-old, weeks removed from a sharp win in the Santa Anita Derby.

He returned less than a month later as an afterthought in the division. A 17th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby on May 4 and a fifth in the Preakness Stakes on May 18 left Goldencents without standing among the nation's 3-year-olds.

If Goldencents makes it back into the national discussion this year, he will do so in the sprint division. On Sunday, Goldencents will make his first start at less than a mile since last September in the $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes over six furlongs at Del Mar.

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Even though Goldencents was successful up to the 1 1/8 miles of the Santa Anita Derby, trainer Doug O'Neill argues that the colt is a natural at shorter distances.

"He's the fastest horse I've had in a long number of years at anything up to a mile," he said last weekend.

Goldencents was the beneficiary of ample attention in the buildup to the Kentucky Derby, largely because University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino is part of the ownership team and O'Neill won the 2012 Kentucky Derby with I'll Have Another.

There were a lot fewer people around the barn the day after the Derby, or after Goldencents was beaten 9 1/2 lengths by Oxbow in the Preakness Stakes. There was never a plan of trying the Belmont Stakes over 1 1/2 miles in New York on June 8.

"You can put a line through the Kentucky Derby," O'Neill said. "I thought he gave a bright performance in the Preakness. After laying an egg in the Kentucky Derby, I was proud of the way he came back. I thought he ran a credible race. He fought through two legs of the Triple Crown."

The ever-optimistic O'Neill conferred with co-owners Glenn Sorgenstein, Josh Kaplan, and Dave Kenney to plan a campaign for the second half of 2013 geared toward shorter races. Goldencents beat maidens over 5 1/2 furlongs in his debut at Del Mar last September and won the one-mile Sham Stakes in January, but otherwise raced at 1 1/16 miles or farther in the first half of this year.

What Goldencents has accomplished in workouts in the last year has left O'Neill hopeful that the shorter distances will work.

"I've seen him do stuff at five furlongs and under that is the sort of thing that makes you look at your watch and think, 'Oh my goodness,' " O'Neill said. "He's got a tremendous stride and he's very fast."

Goldencents has won 4 of 8 starts and $1,280,000, a successful start to a career by any measure. He has run in five states, with the highlight outside of California a win in the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes last November.

"We took him to New York, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Baltimore," O'Neill said. "That's a lot of road trips. The only bad race was in Kentucky."

In the Grade 1 Bing Crosby, Goldencents will face a stern test. The field is expected to include Jimmy Creed, winner of the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita last December, and possibly Fast Bullet, who won the Grade 2 True North Handicap at Belmont Park in June.

The Bing Crosby is part of the Breeders' Cup Win and You're In program, offering a fees-paid berth for the winner to the BC Turf Sprint at Santa Anita in November. Earlier this month, the partnership paid $50,000 to nominate Goldencents to the Breeders' Cup program for the rest of his career.

[BREEDERS' CUP CHALLENGE: Win and You’re In schedule and results]

Even though Goldencents has not run on turf, a Breeders' Cup start is a goal. A victory Sunday in a Win and You're In race could lead to a start in the BC Sprint or BC Dirt Mile.

"You win one of those Win and You're In races and things start making sense," O'Neill said. "This is something we talked about. It opens some doors, and we can stay on the Left Coast."