03/12/2008 11:00PM

Fast sprinter just might not stop


ARCADIA, Calif. - Since Jim Kasparoff has made no apparent mistakes so far with Bob Black Jack, it wouldn't make much sense to question his decision to run the six-furlong world-record holder 1 1/16 miles on Saturday in the $200,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.

Besides, Bob Black Jack doesn't even look like the classic hard-wired, muscle-bound sprinter, despite that 1:06.53 he threw down to win the Sunshine Millions Dash in his most recent appearance, Jan. 26. Any horse who gets an opening quarter in 20.92 seconds, the half in 42.46, and then a final furlong in 12.30 figures to be built along the lines of Go Man Go, or manufactured by Harley Davidson, no matter what the conditions underfoot.

As he walked off the tow ring Thursday morning, heading back to his digs in Kasparoff's three-horse Santa Anita shed row, Bob Black Jack gave off a healthy hum. Dark bay with black trim, he is a neatly balanced colt, with plenty of neck and shoulder to go along with that downhill look usually sported by fast, fluid runners, no matter how far they can go.

Kasparoff has been getting free advice for quite a while to run Bob Black Jack around two turns and toss him in the thick of the West Coast hunt for Kentucky Derby candidates. Since he is only 33, Kasparoff is open to fresh ideas, unlike those of us who are stubborn, crotchety, and set in our ways. Still, he is realistic enough to consider the odds, even in the face of such recent off-the-wall Derby prep winners as Absolutely Cindy and Autism Awareness.

"We paid $25,000 for him, and we thought for that he might break his maiden for $40,000 and do okay," Kasparoff said. "But truthfully, when I first got him, just about everything he did told me he wanted to run two turns."

Beginning late last July, Bob Black Jack has run five times, at either six or seven furlongs, and won three. There is a theory, among both horsemen and handicappers, that a sprinter can be fooled into running long that first time he is tried over a distance of ground.

"I would say that's because it's something different," Kasparoff said. "And they're not subjected to as much pressure early. Remember, when they sprint they're going that first quarter in 21 and 3, or 21 and 2, usually being pushed along, and they're rolling."

The idea of Bob Black Jack strolling around the first turn through a 23-second opening quarter is almost surreal. It is easier to picture David Flores and the colt taking quick control of the San Felipe during its early stages, and if that happens, Bob Black Jack will be long gone. After that, Kasparoff's training and Bob's pedigree will be put to the test.

Kasparoff, a Southern California native, was introduced to racing by his father. His most vivid memory comes from 1982, when as a 7-year-old fan he watched in disbelief as his beloved Perrault was disqualified from victory in the Santa Anita Handicap, giving the race to John Henry.

"It was a tough call," Kasparoff said, still bitter. "But I couldn't believe they took him down."

Frank Veiga, Kasparoff's friend from childhood, later introduced him to the racetrack as a career path. Veiga, a former trainer and assistant to D. Wayne Lukas, still keeps his hand in the game as a bloodstock agent, and it was Veiga who found Bob Black Jack at Getaway Farm, after his original purchase for just $4,500 as a Barretts January yearling.

"Our fathers went to high school together," said Veiga, who had come by for Bob Black Jack's morning gallop. "It was pretty clear that Jim loved the game."

Besides Veiga, Kasparoff's education at the track has been provided by stints with trainers such as W.L. Proctor, former riding great Don Pierce and his brother, Larry, as well as Ron Ellis. Kasparoff also spent time with TVG at its inception, both behind the scenes and in voice-over work.

He is now putting every ounce of that experience to good use, while obsessing night and day over the care and conditioning of his first good horse.

"I'd like to go away, maybe to a sale or something, but I just can't leave him," Kasparoff said. "I don't want to take the chance something might happen when I'm gone."

If something did, he would be dealing with family. Bob Black Jack races for Jeff Harmon and Tim Kasparoff, the trainer's brother.

"I asked my brother if I could take a third of him when we bought him," Jim recalled. "He asked me if I had the $8,000 it would cost. I said no, I was hoping he'd front me for it. His answer? 'Nuh-uh. I'll take half.' "

Asked what a third of Bob Black Jack might run these days, Kasparoff just rolled his eyes and said, softly, "Wow." Beyond the San Felipe, a world of riches lies spread before any 3-year-old who can get 1 1/8 miles with at least some level of authority, beginning with the big one right in Bob Black Jack's own back yard.

"We're very optimistic," Kasparoff added. "I'd be very surprised if this horse lays an egg on Saturday. And if he goes out and does it the right way, then the Santa Anita Derby is very much on the menu."