01/23/2007 12:00AM

Dismayed by snub, Spawr pursues '07 title for Bordonaro


ARCADIA, Calif. - There were few horses last year who had better seasons within their divisions than the sprinter Bordonaro. He won races at three different racetracks, as many as Henny Hughes, whom Bordonaro finished well in front of in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. He won two graded sprint stakes, exactly two more than Discreet Cat. And in three meetings against Thor's Echo, Bordonaro beat him twice.

Yet when the Eclipse Award results were announced Monday night, it was almost as if none of that had happened. Of the 270 voters who cast ballots for champion sprinter - which went to Thor's Echo - exactly one voted for Bordonaro. Discreet Cat finished second, Henny Hughes third. Bordonaro received as many first-place votes as Bishop Court Hill.

"I just lost total respect for the process," said Bill Spawr, Bordonaro's trainer and most passionate defender. "He beat Thor's Echo two out of three. Now, I expected we wouldn't get the Eclipse Award over a horse like Thor's Echo, because he won the Breeders' Cup. But to not be mentioned as one of the three finalists? It's embarrassing. It's embarrassing for the voters.

"The thing that aggravated me was Discreet Cat. He's not a sprinter. Should we have won the Eclipse Award? No. But how can you have a horse be a sprint finalist who's not a sprinter?"

Though frustrated and perplexed, Spawr is ready to turn the page. Bordonaro began his 2006 campaign with a victory in the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint, when it was run at Gulfstream Park, and he will be seeking a repeat in that race on Saturday, when it is run at Santa Anita.

Although Bordonaro, a gelding, is age 6, he is lightly raced, having made just 13 starts since a belated debut in February 2005. With little wear and tear on Bordonaro, Spawr is hoping for another championship-caliber season that will culminate with a return trip to the Breeders' Cup, which this year is at Monmouth Park.

"What happened with the Eclipse Awards is not going to change what we do this year," Spawr said. "We're going to map a way to get him to Monmouth Park. We can start by making some money on Saturday. One thing that might change for us this year is that he was supplemented to the Breeders' Cup last year, so we can run in those Breeders' Cup added-money races during the year. Every sprint he could run in, we're looking at, even Dubai," where he would run in the $2 million Golden Shaheen.

Bordonaro was bred and is owned by Fred Carrillo and Dan Cassella. It took Spawr a long time to get him to the races, and after a poor debut, he was risked in a maiden claiming race in which he could have been taken for $32,000. Fortunately for them, there wasn't any interest in a 4-year-old gelding who had beaten one horse in his first start. Since then, Bordonaro has steadily worked his way up the class ladder. He won his first graded stakes, the Vernon Underwood, in December 2005 at Hollywood Park, then last year ran against the division's best at Gulfstream, Oaklawn, Del Mar, Santa Anita, and Churchill Downs. He won 3 of 5, with one of those losses a controversial second-place finish in which Bordonaro was struck in the face by the whip of a rival rider. He ended the year with a fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, beaten nearly five lengths by Thor's Echo.

"And I think he might be better now than he's ever been," Spawr said. "He's always had problems behind. He was arthritic behind when he was a baby. We took a chip out of a sesamoid, but we never found anything else wrong. We weren't sure what was wrong with him, but he was never comfortable. He's easy to train now. He was tough when he first came in. We had to (geld) him. He was very difficult. But as each year has gone by, he's gotten nicer and nicer."

Bordonaro defeated Thor's Echo last year in January in the Sunshine Millions, then again in October in the Grade 1 Ancient Title at Santa Anita. Spawr ranks them as Bordonaro's two best races of 2006.

"In the Sunshine Millions, he overcame so many things," Spawr said. "He was never comfortable in his stall after shipping to Gulfstream. He wasn't happy at all. In the paddock, he got so hot. He didn't break well. He was laying third or fourth early. That might have been his best race because of the circumstances.

"I thought the Ancient Title, the way he did it, was tremendous. He ran six furlongs in 1:07 and change and only had to get hit with the whip a couple of times."

Bordonaro is now back at Santa Anita, where his win in last fall's Ancient Title made him 3 for 4 at that track. Saturday's race will be the first step on a campaign that Spawr hopes will end in a more satisfying fashion than last year.