Updated on 09/17/2011 5:35PM

Pico Central vs. Speightstown could be preview of the big dance


Pico Central will return to the site of his biggest career win next month to take on Speightstown for the first time in the Grade 1, $500,000 Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park. The race is one of three major preps remaining for the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30.

The BC Sprint has long been the goal for Speightstown, but it is not a given for Pico Central, a Brazilian-bred who would have to be supplemented at a cost of $200,000.

"He's going to run Oct. 2 at Belmont, and then after the race we'll decide if he's going to run in the Breeders' Cup," said Paulo Lobo, who trains Pico Central for Gary Tanaka.

Lobo said jockey Victor Espinoza will be reunited with Pico Central for the Vosburgh. Lobo had considered starting the horse in the Grade 1, $250,000 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita on Oct. 10, but decided to return to Belmont.

"I think he likes New York," said Lobo. "He's run twice there."

Both races were career efforts. Pico Central earned 116 Beyer Figures for his wins in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct in April and the Grade 1 Met Mile at Belmont in May. In his most recent start, Pico Central was third as the 2-5 favorite in the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup at Del Mar.

In that race, he dueled through fractions of 21.80 seconds for the opening quarter and 43.80 seconds for the half-mile before being overtaken by Kela.

Lobo said Pico Central would work for the Vosburgh on Saturday or Sunday, then fly to New York on Sept. 29. The horse last worked on Sept. 19, going five furlongs in 1:00.40 at Hollywood Park.

Kela worked at Hollywood Park on Wednesday morning, drilling a half-mile in 49.60 seconds. He will train up to the Breeders' Cup following wins at Del Mar in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup on July 25 and the O'Brien on Aug. 15.

Following those starts, Mike Mitchell, who trains Kela, gave him a two-week freshening at a farm. While there, Kela walked twice a day and was grazed often.

The half-mile drill was Kela's second since returning from the break. His first came on Sept. 18, when he went three furlongs in 38.60 seconds at Hollywood.

Mitchell said starting Kela in the Ancient Title was an option, but he felt the race came too close to the Breeders' Cup, so he has decided to train the horse up to the Sprint. Kela will be returning to familiar territory next month - he won the Grade 3 Texas Mile at Lone Star in April.

Mitchell will be watching the upcoming showdown between Speightstown and Pico Central with great interest.

"The horse we have to beat will be in the Vosburgh," he said.

The other major Sprint prep is the Grade 3 Phoenix Breeders' Cup on Oct. 8 at Keeneland.

3-year-olds & up, 6 furlongs. Purse: $1 million.

1Pico CentralP. Lobo5-1
Tremendous up until Del Mar debacle; would be a 20% supplement
2SpeightstownT. Pletcher4-1
Perfect this year, and his ability at 6 furlongs is unquestioned
3Midas EyesR. Frankel6-1
Has some big efforts to his credit, but none bigger than his Forego
4Cajun BeatR. Frankel8-1
Upset this race last year, and is now doing business for Frankel
5AlkeT. Pletcher10-1
Should not be taken lightly off his strong early-season form
6Clock StopperD. Stewart15-1
His powerful late run makes him a threat every time he starts
7Our New RecruitJ. Sadler12-1
Dubai Golden Shaheen winner came back strong at Del Mar
8KelaM. Mitchell12-1
Really put it together at Del Mar, but may prefer a bit more distance
9PohaveD. O'Neill12-1
Solid, but had no excuses in losses to Speightstown and Kela
10BluesthestandardT. West15-1
Second to Our New Recruit recently, and second in this last year

- Odds and commentary by Mike Watchmaker.