03/11/2009 11:00PM

Ikigai, Kodiak Kowboy offer classic style contrast


NEW ORLEANS - Ikigai will be running early, Kodiak Kowboy will be running late, and so the question becomes: Will Ikigai last? The two opposite running styles will clash in a surprisingly deep Duncan F. Kenner Stakes, carded as the 10th race at six furlongs for a purse of $125,000, the last of six stakes on the Fair Grounds card.

Ikigai has turned on the jets this winter, becoming one of the elite sprinters in the country, while Kodiak Kowboy has been on vacation, resting up to begin a 4-year-old campaign in which trainer Larry Jones hopes to get him a Grade 1 victory.

Ikigai has always had quick speed out of the gate, and he has been able to make his speed last in five of his nine races.

Two races ago, on Jan. 17 at Gulfstream Park, Ikigai took down the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths at six furlongs. His last start came in the seven-furlong Grade 2 Richter Scale Sprint at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 14. In that race he set too fast a pace, going the first half-mile in 44.60 seconds, and he was overtaken in the stretch and finished second by half a length.

"It wasn't the seven furlongs, it was going the first half in 44 and change," said trainer Marty Wolfson. "He's just very fast, and he puts the pressure on any horse that tries to run with us."

While Ikigai will be going early, Kodiak Kowboy has done his best work in six-furlong sprints from off the pace. With a quick pace assured, the question is how fit he will be after a 3 1/2-month layoff.

Jones has given Kodiak Kowboy five works at Fair Grounds, and has found his work ethos to be stronger coming out of the layoff, as he worked five furlongs in 59 seconds on March 9.

"He returned ready off his layoff, and all is well," said Jones. "He's never been a great work horse. Jones called the March 9 workout "about as good of a work as he ever turns in."

Jones has plans for Kodiak Kowboy, though he isn't sure where he will go after this race.

"This is a tune-up for something, though I don't know what yet," said Jones. "Needless to say, we are trying to get him the Grade 1 win he doesn't have, but it is hard to find Grade 1 sprints."

Sok Sok is 2 for 2 at Fair Grounds. He was impressive here in December 2007 winning the Sugar Bowl by 8 3/4 lengths and won the Thanksgiving Handicap here last November by 3 1/4 lengths.

* The day's six stakes begin with the Bienville, a 5 1/2-furlong turf event carded as the fifth race, where Precious Kiss and Classify meet again. Last time out, Precious Kiss got the better of Classify on the main track, and Classify may benefit from a return to the Fair Grounds turf, as she boasts a perfect 2-for-2 record over the surface.