11/06/2008 12:00AM

Early preview of Gold Cup


PHOENIX - The Phoenix Gold Cup, Turf Paradise's marquee sprint event, may not be for another four months or so, but you wouldn't know it based on those contesting Saturday's $50,000 Caballos del Sol Handicap. The six-furlong race lured a strong field of nine in what may be an early preview to the Gold Cup.

White Spar is generally regarded as the best 3-year-old sprinter on the circuit. He won the Arizona Stallion Stakes and Grand Canyon Handicap over older horses here. He then went to California and was beaten just a neck in the Captain Squire at Hollywood Park on June 29. After a summer vacation, White Spar came back and easily won the opening-day Luke Kruytbosch here Oct. 3 over 3-year-olds.

He will need all his best, however, against this group of older horses. Chhaya Dance, trained by Mike Chambers, is a son of A.P. Indy and was once owned by the Darley Stable. He romped by 7 1/4 lengths in an allowance sprint here in April and then had three straight stakes-placings at Emerald Downs before winning the Mt. Rainier there July 27 in his most recent start. Judging by his sizzling six-furlong work here Oct. 24 in 1:10.60, Chhaya Dance appears primed and ready.

Hewitts invades from Southern California for trainer Bob Hess Jr. and cannot be taken lightly. He was third in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap on the Kentucky Derby undercard. After a vacation, he came back to duel in the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien at Del Mar on Aug. 24 but faltered badly to be fifth. He bounced back with a solid third in a tough allowance race at Santa Anita on Oct. 4.

Capt. Joe Blow comes off a strong series of Southern California races and is no stranger to these surroundings. Five of his seven wins have come here. He has loads of speed and was third as the favorite against $32,000 claimers at Santa Anita on Oct. 13.

Highland Games has upset potential. A multiple stakes winner here, the 5-year-old Highland Games came back after more than seven months on the sidelines to romp in an allowance sprint on Oct. 28.