09/08/2004 11:00PM

It's a sprint, but no one wants lead

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Saturday's $100,000 California Sprint Championship at Bay Meadows offers an unusual question for handicappers.

Five Cal-breds will compete in the six-furlong sprint, and the question handicappers must answer is who will be on the lead.

The battles for the lead in races such as this are usually heated, with several runners wanting to set the pace. On Saturday, no one really seems to want the lead early.

Based on fractions from previous races, Revello, who drew post 3, seems the most logical to take the lead. Damar Wayne, making his stakes debut, has shown speed and is drawn outside, so he might go. Areyoutalkintome, a 3-year-old who won the seven-furlong Real Good Deal in his last start, was on the lead early in his previous start, when he wound up third in an allowance race.

Trainer Ted West has started Revello in a pair of Grade 1 races since claiming him for $40,000 last March at Santa Anita. Revello was third in the Triple Bend and fourth in the Bing Crosby.

With no real front-runner, the race could be determined by strategy.

Doug O'Neill is pleased that Corey Nakatani has agreed to come north to ride Areyoutalkintome.

"Corey knows him so well," O'Neill said. "I'm glad he's riding Saturday."

Bonde has Hall of Famer Russell Baze for Green Team, who finished sixth in the Bing Crosby in his last start.

"Basically, all you do is go over scenarios," said Bonde, who expects to see Revello on the lead. "You can strategize until you're blue in the face, but races seldom work out like they look on paper. There are a million ways a race can be changed. You can't try to handcuff riders with too many instructions."

Most instructions Saturday will be to try to avoid traffic problems. No one is likely to take a long lead, and all should be firing in the lane, including rail runner I B Bad, the only horse in the field who has not been claimed. He has never even run in a claiming race.

"This will be the toughest group he's ever been against," trainer Dennis Hopkins said.