08/05/2006 12:00AM

Notis Otis facing Lord Nelson in Sprint


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The B.C. Cup Sprint, which goes as the second race on Monday's British Columbia Cup card, drew only five horses, but despite the short field it is still one of the most intriguing races of the day.

A very tough Notis Otis will probably go off as the favorite, but it's a wide-open race that includes perennial local champ Lord Nelson.

At 4 years old, Notis Otis is the youngest horse in the race, and he has beaten older horses only once in his career. It was a pretty impressive win, though. Making his first start since he won the Hastings Sophomore last September, Notis Otis resurfaced in an allowance race July 14, where he ran hooked every step of the way with Beau Soleil to win by a neck. Notis Otis drew the rail in the Sprint, and, according to his trainer, Tracy McCarthy, his opponents will have to get past him to win the race.

"He loves to run hooked, and leaving from the rail I expect that he'll go right to the front," said McCarthy.

Metatron, My Master, and Five Point Star all have very good speed as well, and it could set up nicely for Lord Nelson, who is capable of stalking what could be a hotly contested pace.

"I hope they set a quick pace for him," said Lord Nelson's trainer, Dino Condilenios. "I know it's a tough race, but he's doing really well right now."

This will be the first time that Lord Nelson, who is 9, will run in the Sprint. He won the Classic in 2001 and 2003. He also finished second in 2002 and 2004.

McCarthy will saddle one of the shortest-priced horses on the day in the 1 1/8-mile Distaff. Monashee towers over her five opponents and will be very tough to beat. In her last start, she won the Senate Appointee by more than 13 lengths, and her rider, Dave Wilson, had a strong hold of her from the top of the stretch to the wire.

What a Blurr, trained by Steve Henson, looks like the best possibility to round out the exacta. She finished a close second behind Monashee in the Strawberry Morn on June 10 and looked very sharp working five furlongs in 58.80 seconds July 30. Henson will be the busiest trainer on the day with six horses entered on the card.

Stellar's Jay a free-for-all

The most wide-open race is the Stellar's Jay, which drew 12 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles.

Almost Par looks like the one to beat. He has improved dramatically since stretching out. In his first start going around three turns, he lost by a neck to Dixieland Jazz in the CTHS Sales Stakes. He then came back to win a $75,000 optional claiming race July 23. Almost Par was right on the pace in both races, but his trainer, Barb Heads, thinks he can rate.

"You can do anything with him," she said. "So I'm not that concerned about all the speed in the field."

Yoodaman, who came from well off the pace to lose by a head to Almost Par July 23, will appreciate what should be a hot pace. But he could have a hard time working his way through the bulky field.

Next to Monashee, Excited Miss, who is trained by Heads, looks like the most likely winner on the card in the 1 1/16-mile Dogwood. Excited Miss easily handled open company in the Emerald Downs Handicap here July 16. Plus, her last two Beyer Speed Figures - 84 and 85 - are much higher than any of the other six 3-year-old fillies she will be running against have ever received.

The two races for 2-year-olds shape up completely different. The Nursery, for colts and geldings, drew seven horses and will probably have a short-priced favorite. Frosty Finish, trained by Frank Barroby, was a very impressive winner in a 3 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race July 14 and has had two excellent five-furlong works since.

"That was a nice work for him," said Barroby, referring to his best of the day move in 1:01.20 on Aug. 2.

The Debutante drew a full field of 11 fillies and appears to be wide-open. Chelsey's Image will likely be favored off her good second in the Timber Music Stakes. Amber Morn, who finished third after breaking poorly in the Timber Music, could be dangerous if she gets away a little better.