07/26/2006 12:00AM

Possible presence of Metatron adds zip to B.C. Cup Sprint


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The $50,000 B.C. Cup Sprint was already shaping up to be a very good race, but with the likely addition of Metatron, the 6 1/2-furlong Sprint could be the most intriguing race on B.C. Cup Day at Hastings on Aug. 7.

Metatron, trained by Mel Snow, was one of the top stakes horses at Hastings in 2004, when he won four races, including the Sir Winston Churchill Stakes. He also finished second in the Independence Day Handicap at Emerald Downs and led for the first six furlongs in the Longacres Mile before tiring to finish fifth.

The Churchill was his last time he won until last Saturday, when he blitzed a very good field of $50,000 optional claiming horses, which included the 2005 B.C. Cup Sprint winner, Commodore Craig. Metatron broke sharply but was immediately taken in hand by his rider, Chad Hoverson, and after stalking a very fast pace set by Celt, he took control of the race leaving the quarter pole. He never looked threatened as he cruised to a 3 1/4-length win over Commodore Craig. His final time for the 6 1/2 furlongs - 1:15.65 - is the fastest at the meet.

Metatron, who has earned $332,484, started only four times in 2005, and his best race was in his initial start, when he finished a close third to Blowin in the Wind in the George Royal Stakes. He just never got untracked after that, and in his first three races this year he didn't beat a horse, which helps explain the $36.40 mutuel.

"He's a pretty legitimate horse," said Snow. "He was very consistent until we started running into problems with him. It was a combination of physiological things that were bothering him."

Because of the nature of Metatron's problems, it wasn't easy for Snow to pinpoint what exactly was causing his difficulties. According to Snow, a breathing problem was just one of the difficulties Metatron had to overcome.

"It took a while to determine what it was and what it was doing and then come up with something to deal with it," he said. "It sure felt good on Saturday, though."

Snow was pleased with the way Metatron came out of the race and was optimistic about running Metatron in the Sprint.

"As long as the program is still working, he should run in the Sprint," he said. "Right now everything looks pretty good."

Former champ may be favored

Also headed for the Sprint is Notis Otis, who is coming off of a gutsy win over Beau Soleil in an allowance race July 14. Trained by Tracy McCarthy, Notis Otis was the local 2-year-old champion in 2004 but almost died when he came down with a virus after running in the Presidents Handicap at Stampede Park in his first start as a 3-year-old. He came back in late summer to win two of his three starts, including the Hastings Sophomore Stakes. He is undefeated going 6 1/2 furlongs and could very well be the favorite in the Sprint.

"He's pretty amazing, isn't he," said McCarthy. "He's just a bulldog, and he just won't let you beat him. After all he's been through and to still be able to perform at the level he does is quite remarkable."

Notis Otis's win over Beau Soleil was his first start of the year. He cast himself in his stall earlier in the year and was forced to miss the first part of the meet.

Condilenios looking to run two

Trainer Dino Condilenios is planning on running at least two in the Sprint. He just hasn't made up his mind which two. Lord Nelson is a strong possibility, as is Five Point Star.

Lord Nelson won the 2001 and 2003 Classic. He also finished second in 2002 and lost by a nose in the 2004 Classic. He has been off since he finished third in an allowance race June 11, so Condilenios is leaning toward running him in the Sprint this year.

"Actually, he's probably fit enough to run in the Classic, so we'll probably see which one comes up the toughest," he said. "He has been off for a while, so the Sprint is probably where he'll end up, but I haven't completely made up my mind yet."

Five Point Star won the Sprint in 2004 and lost by a neck to Commodore Craig last year. Condilenios was also considering Woodford Gale for the race. Woodford Gale has impressed Condilenios since he arrived here in June. In his last start he finished second in an entry-level allowance race at Keeneland.

"He still has conditions, so we just might wait for a conditional race," he said.

Woodford Gale was purchased at the 2004 Ocala spring sale of 2-year-olds in training for $975,000 but was part of a three-horse package recently bought by Swift Thoroughbreds for considerably less.