04/18/2008 12:00AM

Go Between a cut above Ben Ali rivals


LEXINGTON, Ky. - If running scared means running faster, maybe the opposition actually has a chance. With $2 million in career earnings and a growing reputation for being especially effective on synthetic surfaces, Go Between has done plenty to strike fear into the hearts of the six horses who will face him Sunday at Keeneland in the $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes.

Bred and owned by Peter Vegso and trained by Bill Mott, Go Between has had two sensational races this year, both of them over the synthetic track at Santa Anita. The 5-year-old Florida-bred won the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic in January, then was flying at the finish when he narrowly missed against Heatseeker in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 1. Moreover, his next-to-last race last year resulted in a victory in the Grade 3 Fayette Stakes over the Keeneland Polytrack.

In making his first start in seven weeks and staying put on a synthetic surface, Go Between figures as a huge favorite in the 78th running of the Grade 3 Ben Ali, which goes as the eighth of nine Sunday races. In fact, his bankroll exceeds the cumulative total of his six rivals, and it would have to be called a major upset if any horse other than Go Between comes away with a win.

Garrett Gomez, who rode him in both Santa Anita races this winter, again has the mount on Go Between, who will start from post 2 in the 1 1/8-mile race.

Maybe the strongest challenger is Sir Whimsey, even though the colt has never raced on synthetics. Entered off a game half-length victory in the March 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap - a Grade 2 race in which he overcame a slow start - Sir Whimsey would be a threat if he can replicate something close to the career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 103 that he earned in that latest score.

Other possibilities include Sterwins, a consistent gelding who has raced exclusively on grass the past two seasons, and Leonnatus Anteas, a Canadian colt with 2 wins and 2 seconds from 4 starts over Polytrack.

Crossword, Mayan King, and It's a Bird complete the lineup.

After Sunday, the only stakes remaining in the final three-day stretch of the Keeneland spring meet are the Grade 3 Bewitch on Thursday and the Grade 2 Elkhorn on Friday, closing day. Churchill Downs begins its spring meet Saturday, April 26.