11/02/2006 12:00AM

Henny Hughes 'something special'

Email

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Kiaran McLaughlin is a low-key kind of guy by nature, but mention the name Henny Hughes in his presence and his face immediately lights up and words like "special" and "great" quickly enter the conversation.

McLaughlin's unwavering confidence in his flashy 3-year-old will get put to the supreme test on Saturday when Henny Hughes is expected to go off the solid choice over 13 other speed merchants in the $2,130,000 .

Henny Hughes is undefeated and virtually untested in three starts since moving to McLaughlin's barn earlier this year. A son of Hennessy and runner-up last year to 2-year-old champion Stevie Wonderboy in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Henny Hughes enters the six-furlong Sprint off easy wins in the Grade 1 King's Bishop and Grade 1 Vosburgh.

"Obviously this will be his toughest test yet, but they have to beat us," said McLaughlin, who trains Henny Hughes for Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed al-Maktoum's Zabeel Racing International. "My confidence level is so high in him right now. I wouldn't trade places with anybody in the field."

If McLaughlin has any concern it may be that Henny Hughes breaks from post 4 in the Sprint.

"Ideally speaking I'd like to be outside the speed, and unfortunately the two speed horses, Bordonaro and Attila's Storm, are both to our outside," said McLaughlin. "Hopefully we'll be able to slide into third or fourth and get outside the leaders."

McLaughlin has trained and been associated with many outstanding horses during his career but paid Henny Hughes the ultimate compliment when comparing him with the likes of his Classic contender Invasor and Belmont Stakes winner Jazil, among others.

"Going into a race like this off a lifetime best can be a negative for a normal horse," said McLaughlin. "But he's not a normal horse. He's something special and he makes me feel great going into the race."

Henny Hughes will attempt to become the second straight 3-year-old to win the Sprint and fourth in the last six years.

Bordonaro, Pomeroy, and Attila's Storm lead a strong contingent of older horses hoping to upset Henny Hughes.

Bordonaro is coming off a career-best 119 Beyer Speed Figure he earned for his one-length victory over Thor's Echo in the Grade 1 Ancient Title at Santa Anita. A 5-year-old son of Memo, Bordonaro was a late nominee to the Breeders' Cup program. Trainer Bill Spawr and owners Fred Carrillo and Daniel Cassella did some soul searching before finally deciding to spend the money to enter the Sprint.

"We're concerned about bringing him back in just four weeks off such a big race," said Spawr. "He's always done his best with more time between races. But we've looked for reasons not to run since the Ancient Title and can't find any."

Bordonaro is expected to vie for the early lead with Attila's Storm, who is the only returnee from last year's Sprint. Attila's Storm contested the pace to midstretch before succumbing grudgingly to finish fourth behind Silver Train in 2005. Sidelined by a hind leg fracture following his third-place finish in the Palos Verdes Handicap in January, Attila's Storm returned to finish third behind Henny Hughes in the Vosburgh on Oct. 7.

"I thought he ran terrific in this race last year, and I think he will improve off his last start because he's fitter now than he was for that race," said trainer Rich Schosberg.

Pomeroy has also bounced back from a serious injury and long layoff to become a key contender in the Sprint. A Calder-based son of Boundary, Pomeroy was purchased privately by current owner David Hutson following surgery to repair a chip in his ankle sustained in his final prep for the 2005 Sprint. Pomeroy has finished second in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint and won the Grade 1 Forego by 2 1/4 lengths over War Front since returning to action with trainer Marty Wolfson in July.

War Front has not finished worse than second in six starts this season but owns only a single victory, that coming in the Grade 2 Vanderbilt at Saratoga. He also figures to be a pace factor in the Sprint.

Too Much Bling has not started since winning Calder's Grade 2 Carry Back on July 15, but has been training spectacularly on the West Coast, according to trainer Bob Baffert.

Kelly's Landing owns the six-furlong track record at Churchill Downs, but his chances in the Sprint were compromised when he drew post 14.