04/29/2009 12:00AM

Lots of early speed in short sprint


High Strike Zone and Brother Bean, who have combined for 22 victories and more than $800,000, head an evenly matched field of nine sprinters going five furlongs in the $50,000 Need for Speed Stakes at Evangeline Downs.

Brother Bean, winless in six starts in 2008, returned from a layoff to win an optional claiming event at Delta Downs in late March. The 6-year-old Brother Bean controlled the pace that evening en route to a 1 1/2-length victory and should once again be a major pace player. Trainer Victor Arceneaux has given Billy Patin the return call.

High Strike Zone also went winless last year but he too has a victory in 2009 at the recently concluded Delta meeting. His win came in mid-January while also controlling the pace and for the same conditions as Brother Bean's victory. Kirk LeBlanc will ride.

With the pace almost certain to be swift, the race could set up for a closer. Should the race indeed fall apart up front, Mr. Barracuda would appear the most likely to benefit. A 7-year-old gelding, Mr. Barracuda is a nine-time winner locally and his ability to kick on late has served him well on numerous occasions. Colby Hernandez will be in the saddle for trainer Keith Bourgeois.