08/02/2007 11:00PM

Mach Ride skipping Forego; eyes Turf Sprint

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MIAMI - Mach Ride is ranked as the third-best sprinter in the country on Daily Racing Form's Watchmaker Watch, a distinction he earned after easily defeating a field that included former division leader Smokey Stover in the Smile Sprint Handicap.

But instead of heading for a race befitting his current standing and shipping to Saratoga later this month for the Grade 1 Forego Handicap, Mach Ride could make his next start Saturday in the unlikeliest of places: Calder's $250,000 Turf Sprint Championship.

Mach Ride was among 22 horses nominated for the five-furlong Turf Sprint, which shares top billing on the Aug. 11 program with its filly counterpart, the $250,000 Distaff Turf Sprint Championship, and the opening divisions of the rich Florida Stallion series.

Mach Ride has shown marked improvement since trainer Steve Standridge put blinkers on the speedster for the Champali overnight stakes on June 16. Mach Ride, a 4-year-old son of Pentelicus, responded with a 7 1/2-length triumph in the Champali, then returned three weeks later to capture the Grade 2 Smile by two lengths over Paradise Dancer, with Smokey Stover finishing a well-beaten third.

"I think the combination of blinkers plus not trying to rate him early and just letting him run have made a big difference," Standridge said. "In addition, I think he got some added confidence by finally winning a race, and I'd say the confidence level on him is real high right now."

Naturally, Standridge is hoping the Turf Sprint will come off the grass and be moved to the main track since Mach Ride has never tried the turf. However, he hasn't ruled out the possibility of running his star even if the race goes as scheduled.

"He's got a great foot for the turf and I think he'll handle it," Standridge said. "I tried to get him on the grass to work last Monday but couldn't, so I'll try again this Monday before making any decisions."

Standridge's long-range goal for Mach Ride is the Breeders' Cup Sprint, and he's hoping to use the Turf Sprint as a prep for the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont Park on Sept. 30.

"I decided to skip the Forego and point for the Vosburgh for several reasons," Standridge said. "First of all, I think we'll meet a lot of the horses we're going to face in the Breeders' Cup in the Vosburgh, and if he shows he can compete with them then, I'll just leave him up north. If we ran in the Forego, I'd have to ship him north, bring him back down, and then ship him north again, which would just be too much."

Gaff made topweight in Turf Sprint

Racing secretary Mike Anifantis released his weights Friday for both grass stakes, assigning Mach Ride 116 for the turf and 119 if the race moves to the main track. In either case, he won't be the highweight if Gaff ships to town. Gaff would carry 122 pounds on turf and 120 on dirt if he comes.

Gaff is perfect in three starts on grass this year and also finished third in Churchill Downs's Grade 3 Aristides on the main track. Gaff's trainer, Steve Asmussen, is looking closely at the Turf Sprint, stakes coordinator Andy Camac said Friday.

Ecclesiastic, winner of Belmont's Grade 3 Jaipur Stakes for trainer Allen Jerkens on May 27, has been sold privately to the Farnsworth Stable LLC since the outing and will compete in the Turf Sprint for his new trainer, Marty Wolfson. Camac also said Heros Reward and Lookingforthesecret are expected to ship in for the race.

Smitty's Sunshine, will bring her six-race win streak back to Calder as the 122-pound highweight in the Distaff Turf Sprint, where she may again be challenged by Unbridled Sidney along with shippers Ruby's Grand Slam and Strong Faith.

Strong field for sprint allowance

Sunday's 11-race program features five allowance races, the best of which is a six-furlong dash to be decided under money allowance conditions for a $45,000 purse.

The stakes-caliber field includes millionaire Tour of the Cat, multiple stakes winner Yes He's the Man, Steel the Glory, and Pop Goes the Tiger, who is the lone 3-year-old in the field.

* Trainer Manny Azpurua's undefeated and untestesd 2-year-old filly Yonagucci worked five furlongs in 48.20 seconds here Friday. Yonagucci is expected to make her next start in Saratoga's Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes on Aug. 15.