04/19/2006 12:00AM

Potential sprint clash brews


ARCADIA, Calif. - For all his accomplishments as a Thoroughbred trainer, Bill Spawr is pretty much used to the fact that he'll never be treated as a celebrity. Spawr groupies tend to be older guys in bad shirts who peer over the top of reading glasses and ask, "Do you like your horse in the fifth?" He gets autograph requests about as often as the mailman.

Which is why, in a career that's lasted nearly 30 years, Spawr was so floored, flabbergasted, and just plain delighted by what happened last Thursday evening in Arkansas, at a restaurant in Hot Springs, a few hours after he had sent out the flashy chestnut Bordonaro to win the $150,000 Count Fleet Handicap.

"I don't know anybody in town," Spawr said. "I walk in with my owners, and this table full of people stood up and cheered and started clapping. One guy shook my hand, then another guy at another table shook my hand and thanked me for bringing him. I had three tables standing up - just racing fans! People that would have only seen me saddling the horse on a television monitor. It gave me goosebumps."

No question, the Santa Anita-based Bordonaro is the kind of racehorse who raises the flesh. Quick into motion, he cruises effortlessly through half-miles in less than 45 seconds, then throws down final quarters in 24 and small change. Spawr was told by knowledgeable locals, before the Count Fleet was run, not to expect his horse to clock in much faster than 1:09 and a tick or two over the deep Oaklawn track, even in a winning effort. Bordonaro's final time was 1:08.77, good enough for his eighth win in his last nine starts.

The Count Fleet came up at a good time, giving Bordonaro a chance to establish solid street cred just as Lost in the Fog, the Eclipse Award sprinter of 2005, prepares for his 2006 debut on Saturday at Golden Gate Fields. With four consecutive stakes wins at four different tracks, dating back to November, Bordonaro is clearly the leading sprinter to emerge from the West Coast so far this year. But until he meets and beats Lost in the Fog, Bordonaro must defer to the champ.

"I sincerely appreciate what he does," Spawr said of Lost in the Fog. "I'd rather not run against him. But at some point it's going to happen."

Both Bordonaro and Lost in the Fog are at their best and most exciting under traditional six-furlong circumstances. The place, however, does not seem to matter. Between them, they have won 17 races in 20 starts at 13 different tracks.

Bordonaro's experience at Gulfstream Park just before winning the Sunshine Millions Sprint in January was rocky, to say the least. Spawr and his crew stayed up late babying their horse through a bad case of road blues, which prompted Spawr to take special precautions for the trip to Hot Springs, with the help of local trainer Mike Stidham.

"I asked Mike if he had a stall behind the feed room, where it's quiet and dark," Spawr said. "We got there, and it was all ready for us. Nobody around him, with a grass area right out front, where he grazed for an hour every day. He liked it better than he does here - even put on weight!"

As for Lost in the Fog, we already know he can travel. His only loss in nine 2005 starts at seven different tracks came at the end of the line in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, over a Belmont surface he had already mastered in the Riva Ridge Stakes earlier in the year.

Between now and the final preps for the 2006 BC Sprint at Churchill Downs, there are only a handful of six-furlong events with purses worthy of Lost in the Fog's stature. The $200,000 True North Handicap is offered at Belmont on June 10. The $500,000 Smile Stakes comes up on July 15 at Calder. Del Mar presents the $300,000 Bing Crosby Handicap - Bordonaro's primary target - on July 30, and the $200,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt runs on Aug. 12 at Saratoga.

But first things first. Lost in the Fog's comeback race Saturday is called the $100,000 Golden Gate Fields Sprint. He has not raced since sustaining the only loss of his 11-race career in the Breeders' Cup, after which he spent 60 days on a Florida farm.

Trainer Greg Gilchrist, who turns 58 on Monday, has had Lost in the Fog in steady training since the first of the year. He hopes to celebrate a couple of days early with Saturday's return.

"I'm standing right here in front of him," Gilchrist said from his Golden Gate barn late Wednesday morning. "He's actually settled down a little. I mean, for a stallion, he's not bad. But he doesn't miss too many people if you turn your back on him.

"The six months have gone pretty quick, even though it was almost a relief having him out for those two months," he said. "It was kind of a vacation time for me, too, since he's the kind of horse that can make you wake up a lot in the middle of the night.

"Now I'm sure ready for him to run," Gilchrist said. "I just hope he is."