03/16/2010 12:00AM

Pomegranate finds his niche as sprinter

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark, - Back in January, trainer Wes Hawley decided to sprint Pomegranate in order to take advantage of a race with perfect, nonwinner-of-four lifetime conditions for the horse. The result has been a whole new career path for Pomegranate.

He put up a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 84 in winning the claiming sprint at Fair Grounds on Jan. 4. Pomegranate has since fired two more strong efforts sprinting, and his form and collection of high Beyers point him out as a top choice Thursday in the ninth race at Oaklawn Park.

"I probably should have been sprinting him all along," said Hawley, who has also won two route races with Pomegranate.

Thursday's race is a first-level optional $16,000 claimer at six furlongs. The field also includes Holy Dreamer, the runner-up in a first-level allowance at Oaklawn last out for leading trainer Steve Asmussen, and Live From Appollo, who gets the services of leading rider Corey Nakatani.

Pomegranate last raced Feb. 12 and was second in a first-level allowance sprint at Fair Grounds. Handleman won, covering six furlongs in a sharp 1:10.80, while Pomegranate equaled his best Beyer.

"I thought he ran a super race," Hawley said of Pomegranate. "The horse that beat us ran a huge race that day. He was like a monster for the race. And our horse was only three lengths behind him, so I like our chances."

Cliff Berry has the mount on Pomegranate, who will break from post 3.

"He'll stalk and pounce," Hawley said.

Pomegranate, a 4-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic, is a half-brother to Heliopsis, an eight-time sprint winner who has earned more than $175,000.

Pomegranate and Holy Dreamer should get a decent pace to stalk with the presence of After Shock, Live From Appollo, and Up Country.

Holy Dreamer will be making his third start since November. He has moved forward with each of his starts, and for his runner-up finish last time earned an 82 Beyer. He will be ridden by Luis Quinonez.

Live From Appollo won a $20,000 claiming race on the front end Jan. 23.

* There is a $19,799 pick-six carryover for Thursday.