06/19/2009 11:00PM

Mr. Nightlinger tries little bit longer

By Z/Keeneland
Defending Highlander champion Heros Reward (left) will try to rebound from a loss to Mr. Nightlinger when they meet again Sunday.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Several of the leading turf sprinters on the continent will take part in Sunday's $200,000 Highlander Stakes at Woodbine, including last year's winner of the Grade 3 event, Heros Reward.

Heros Reward, based in Maryland with trainer Dale Capuano, was victorious in the Grade 2 Nearctic Stakes here in the fall of 2007. He defeated a modest field in the 2008 Highlander, in one of his three stakes scores during that campaign.

Heros Reward has started twice this year. He captured his season opener in the Grade 3 Shakertown at Keeneland, and was fifth behind front-running Mr. Nightlinger in the five-furlong Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico.

"He ran well in both races," said Capuano. "The Shakertown was a pretty good race off the layoff. He pretty much ran his race at Pimlico. He had a little bit of traffic, and couldn't get clear. With a little luck, he might have been second, but Mr. Nightlinger was too much that day. I don't think Mr. Nightlinger has ever been beaten going five-eighths."

Mr. Nightlinger figures to lead the way in his first turf start at six furlongs. He set sizzling fractions over the hillside course at Santa Anita, before fading badly in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.

Mr. Nightlinger earned a 104 Beyer Figure in the McKay.

Shadowless came wide from midpack to take the allowance prep for the Highlander, which was his third turf win in four starts. It was a different style from his previous race in the Grade 3 Vigil Stakes on the Polytrack, in which he set slow fractions before fading to sixth.

Trainer David Bell took the blinkers off for the prep, but said he believes that equipment change had little to do with Shadowless's turnaround.

"He just had little cheaters on," Bell explained. "I thought about taking them off last year, and after he ran a couple of times this year, I thought he didn't need them anyway. He was a little aggressive in [the Vigil], where there was just no speed, and he inherited the lead going seven-eighths. He's better coming from off the pace."

True to Tradition faded to third after setting the pace when favored in the prep. He is winless since his narrow victory in last year's Nearctic.

Smart Enough led throughout the 2007 Highlander, and was also third in 2007 Nearctic. He's coming off a front-running triumph over about 5 1/2 furlongs in the Wolf Hill Stakes at Monmouth.