10/12/2007 12:00AM

Inca King needs his old self back

Reed Palmer Photography
Inca King figures as one of the top few wagering choices in a full and competitive field of 3-year-olds in the Bryan Station.
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Inca King was cruising along on a three-race win streak, and boom, here came the clunkers. Back-to-back ninth-place finishes in the Virginia Derby and the DeBartolo Memorial got trainer Steve Asmussen and his staff to start asking some serious questions, and they are hoping for the right answers Sunday when the gelding returns to action in the feature race at Keeneland, the $150,000 Bryan Station Stakes.

"I'm really looking for him to turn the corner Sunday," said Asmussen assistant Scott Blasi. "He's back on a course he likes, and when we worked him here the other day [Tuesday], he was really moving."

Inca King figures as one of the top few wagering choices in a full and competitive field of 3-year-olds in the Bryan Station, a one-mile turf fixture that goes as the eighth race of nine. Thirteen were entered, although only 12 can start.

Inca King was purchased privately by Bill Heiligbrodt after the gelding won an April 27 turf allowance at Keeneland. In his next start, on June 16, he led all the way in winning the Grade 2, $221,000 Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs, "pretty much paying for himself right there," noted Blasi. But in his next two starts, he showed his usual speed before fading badly in the $1 million Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs and the $100,000 DeBartolo Memorial at Remington Park.

"I think the company might be what got him in Virginia, and the fractions were awfully fast at Remington, especially for a 1 1/8-mile race," said Blasi, referring to an opening six furlongs in 1:10.85. "Hopefully backing him up to a mile will help Sunday."

Inca King, to be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, is the only Bryan Station starter to have won a graded race in the United States. Sandwaki, who will be making his U.S. and 3-year-old debut Sunday, won a Group 3 turf sprint last year in France.

Sandwaki is trained by Todd Pletcher, who also will send out the likely favorite in Distorted Reality, a consistent colt who not only won the ungraded Lexington Stakes on the Belmont Park turf in July, but also has been graded stakes-placed three times, in the Hill Prince, Hall of Fame, and Saranac stakes.

Rene Douglas has the call on Sandwaki, and Rafael Bejarano rides Distorted Reality.

The Bryan Station highlights a Sunday card that also includes three allowances (races 5, 7, 9). After Sunday, Keeneland goes dark until live action resumes Wednesday.