04/05/2007 12:00AM

Keyed Entry, Latent Heat in showdown

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Their flirtation with the Triple Crown trail a year ago delayed the development of Latent Heat and Keyed Entry into two of the premier sprinters in the country. They square off for the first time Saturday in a sensational renewal of the Grade 1, $300,000 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct.

Latent Heat, trained by Bobby Frankel, may rate a slight edge on the basis of his proven versatility. In winning the Grade 1 Malibu at Santa Anita in December, Latent Heat lay third before displaying a quick burst of speed turning for home to open up a big lead. In winning the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap, he alternated for the lead with Proud Tower Too before turning back that rival by a neck.

"They were both good races - his numbers were good in both of them," Frankel said. "If he runs back to those numbers he should be tough. He shouldn't be a bounce candidate."

Indeed, Latent Heat has had seven weeks to recover from the San Carlos. David Flores will ride from post 6.

Keyed Entry, who finished last in the 2006 Kentucky Derby, returned from a nine-month layoff to win the Grade 3 Deputy Minister Handicap by five lengths, putting away a pace challenge from Kelly's Landing, who won last Saturday's Dubai Golden Shaheen. Keyed Entry, who breaks from post 7, has been working strongly at Palm Beach Downs and projects to be the main speed under John Velazquez.

"If he's going to step up and win a Grade 1, he's going to have to do it while surviving some pace pressure," said Keyed Entry's trainer, Todd Pletcher, who has won the last two Carters.

Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. would love to see Latent Heat and Keyed Entry at each other's throats early in the Carter. The Dutrow-trained Silver Wagon came from off the pace to win the General George and last year's Sport Page.

Dutrow also entered Kazoo, but that horse raced on Thursday. While Dutrow has often wheeled horses back on short rest, he didn't like Kazoo's inside Carter draw.

Dutrow is confident that Silver Wagon doesn't need any assistance.

"There's plenty of speed," Dutrow said. "It's just if he can come catch them. He's running with much better horses."

Diabolical finished second to champion sprinter Thor's Echo in the Grade 1 De Francis Dash last fall. In his first start this year, Diabolical finished third to the undefeated Half Ours in the Grade 2 Richter Scale Breeders' Cup at Gulfstream.

Wild Jam is a talented sprinter, but may just be a cut below these.