10/13/2009 11:00PM

Don't count on Kodiak Kowboy

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Barbara D. Livingston
The 3-year-old Capt. Candyman Can is headed to the Sprint off a good second in the Phoenix.

While Zensational, who will be the favorite, continues to train up to the the 2009 Breeders' Cup Sprint, his competition came into sharper focus last weekend following exciting runnings of the Grade 1 Ancient Title and Grade 3 Phoenix stakes.

Gayego will likely be the second choice in the Sprint following his come-from-behind 1 1/4-length decision over Crown of Thorns in the Ancient Title.

Fatal Bullet, runner-up to Midnight Lute in the 2008 Sprint, earned himself the opportunity to return to Southern California and try his luck in the Sprint once again after outlasting Capt. Candyman Can by a half-length to win the Phoenix.

The imposing presence of Zensational and the fact the Breeders' Cup will be decided over the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita for the second year in a row figures to keep the field for the Sprint relatively compact once again in 2009. Only eight horses competed in the 2008 edition of the event, the smallest field in the history of the Sprint.

Among the leading members of the division not likely to make the trip west is the Steve Asmussen-trained Kodiak Kowboy, winner of the Grade 1 Vosburgh earlier this month, whose status for the Sprint remained tenuous at best on Wednesday.

"No definite decision has been made one way or the other, but Steve is concerned how much the last race took out of him," said Tom Ludt, general manager of Vinery Stables. Vinery owns Kodiak Kowboy in partnership with Fox Hill Farm.

"To run in the Sprint means to ship him all the way out to California with enough time to get acclimated to the racetrack, and synthetics have not been his best surface," Ludt added. "At this point, I'd say it's more than likely he will not go."

If Kodiak Kowboy does stay home, it would mean the two fastest horses on the East Coast will be passing the Sprint. Trainer Todd Beattie has already stated that Vosburgh runner-up Fabulous Strike would skip the Breeders' Cup because it is being run on the Pro-Ride surface.

One horse who will be heading to California for certain is Capt. Candyman Can. The 3-year-old Capt. Candyman Can, winner of the Grade 1 King's Bishop, had to concede the older Fatal Bullet four pounds under the allowance conditions of the Phoenix, run over Polytrack.

"The Phoenix wasn't an ideal race for a 3-year-old since our horse had already won a Grade 1 and had to carry 122 pounds," said Ian Wilkes, who trains Capt.Candyman Can. "We weren't using this race as a test to see how he'd handle synthetics as much as a stepping-stone to the Sprint.

"First of all you're talking about two different surfaces when trying to compare the Polytrack with Pro-Ride. Secondly, he trains on Pro-Ride all the time at the Skylight Training Center and we know he handles it pretty well."