08/16/2007 11:00PM

Polytrack, distance worries for Bordonaro

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DEL MAR, Calif. - The nuances of racing and handicapping on Polytrack cannot be more evident than in Sunday's Grade 2, $300,000 Pat O'Brien Handicap at Del Mar. Had this race, with this field, been run last year on Del Mar's former dirt surface, Bordonaro would have been an overwhelming favorite, based on the apparent ease in which he will make the lead against five rivals.

But this is a new era, where speed is not the weapon it once was at Del Mar. So while Bordonaro does figure to make the lead, it will be up to jockey Richard Migliore to try to ration that speed over seven furlongs and hold off the inevitable late challenges from the likes of Greg's Gold and Surf Cat.

"I'm looking at it like he's going to run a mile, a one-turn mile," Bill Spawr, who trains Bordonaro, said Friday morning. "And I don't know if he can go that far. He's built like a Quarter Horse. He looks like a horse who should be at Los Alamitos."

That blocky build, combined with wicked speed, has carried Bordonaro to 10 wins in 17 starts. But Bordonaro has won just once in his last five races, which can be blamed on Polytrack, a rival who bolted at Belmont Park, and - handicappers will have to decide - the possibility that he is not quite as good as he was a year ago.

Bordonaro comes off a third-place finish in this track's Bing Crosby Handicap going six furlongs on July 29. He broke from an inside post, dueled for the lead, opened up at midstretch, but was passed late. The way this track plays, it was a huge effort.

"I thought it was probably one of his better races, considering how tiring the track is," Spawr said. "At least he showed he could handle it. One thing about this track, he did come out of the race well."

So well that Spawr decided to run Bordonaro back in just three weeks, and at seven furlongs, both of which are unprecedented in his career.

"We'll try to get him to relax and get the distance," Spawr said. "I'm worried we'll take too much out of him fighting him. But that's Migliore's problem. Somebody might try to push him. But if they do that, they compromise their own chances."

Greg's Gold was a narrow loser in the Crosby, dropping a nose decision to In Summation while finishing 1 1/2 lengths in front of Bordonaro. Of his five starts this year since returning from a 17-month layoff with tendon issues, two were on synthetic surfaces, and Greg's Gold ran well in both.

Surf Cat returned from a 14-month absence on July 7 and fell just short of catching Bilo in the seven-furlong Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park. His trainer, Bruce Headley, purposely passed the Crosby to await this race. In his last 6 races at 6 1/2 or seven furlongs, Surf Cat has 4 wins and 2 seconds. Entering Friday's card, Headley had yet to win a race on a synthetic surface.

Publication beat a softer field on this track on July 25. He too will be flying late.

Soul City Slew is back at his best game, sprinting, but he may need softer company. Absolute Glory, who is making his stakes debut, is still eligible to a second-level allowance race.

The winner of the O'Brien gets a berth in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Sprint at Monmouth Park Oct. 27.