10/08/2008 12:00AM

Mr. Nightlinger the favorite in Turf Sprint


Although a surprise entry could always shake things up, it looks like nothing happened during the final round of preps for the inaugural BC Turf Sprint to keep Mr. Nightlinger from being the favorite. That's the main reason trainer Bret Calhoun isn't bothering to send Chamberlain Bridge, winner of the Woodford Stakes last weekend at Keeneland, to California for the 6 1/2-furlong race on Santa Anita's hillside turf course.

Carl Moore, the owner of Chamberlain Bridge, also co-owns Mr. Nightlinger, a 4-year-old Indian Charlie colt who has won his last five races, all of them in turf sprints and all with triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures.

Calhoun, based primarily in Texas and Oklahoma, drove to Kentucky from Dallas this week to oversee the final preparations for Mr. Nightlinger, who breezed five furlongs Monday on the Keeneland turf in a minute flat.

"My help told me he was awesome," Calhoun said.

The Woodford favorite and runner-up, Smart Enough, is "a definite maybe" for Santa Anita, said trainer John R.S. "Doc" Fisher. "I'm sure he'll get a whole lot out of this race."

From Woodbine in Canada, where the Grade 2 Nearctic Stakes on Saturday was the last major prep for the BC Turf Sprint, victorious True to Tradition is headed to Santa Anita by way of his home base, Delaware Park, according to trainer Scott Lake. True to Tradition, a 6-year-old Rahy gelding, has quietly enjoyed a terrific year, having already earned nearly $500,000.

"He's extremely versatile," Lake said.

Rouse the Cat, the longshot runner-up, and Heros Reward, fourth as the 3-1 second choice, might also come from the Nearctic.

In California, two major Turf Sprint contenders worked recent half-miles over the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita, with California Flag going Sunday in 47.40 seconds and Get Funky going Tuesday in 47.80.

In New York, Salute the Count breezed six furlongs Tuesday in 1:15.60 over the Aqueduct turf, dogs up, for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr.

According to the International Racing Bureau, at least two horses are expected to be flown from Europe for the BC Turf Sprint: Diabolical, the former U.S. mainstay who has had an up-and-down year for Godolphin Racing, and Only Answer, an Andre Fabre-trained 4-year-old filly coming off a victory in a Groupo3 race at Longchamp in September.

With the pre-entry deadline for all Breeders' Cup races being Tuesday, it will be interesting to see if any turn-back horses from longer races such as the Kelso Mile, Woodbine Mile, Oak Tree BC Mile, or Shadwell Mile are pre-entered.