11/17/2003 1:00AM

Region chock full of sprint talent

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ALBANY, Calif. - El Dorado Shooter is due to return to the track this week for the first time since undergoing surgery to remove a minor chip from an ankle last spring. The nominal sprint king of northern California, El Dorado Shooter holds the Golden Gate Fields track record at six furlongs (1:07.55) and was the Bay Meadows sprinter of the year for 2003.

But his crown does not rest easy.

He returns to what may be the deepest sprint division ever in northern California.

Among the claimants to his crown are Green Team, who won the Nov. 8 Cal Cup Sprint in stakes-record time while earning a 110 Beyer, as well as 3-year-old Trapper, a fast-closing third in the same race after beating Green Team in the $100,000 California Sprint Championship Handicap at Bay Meadows.

At Golden Gate Fields on the same day as the Cal Cup, More Crafty edged My Captain in the six-furlong Albany Handicap to snap My Captain's streak of three straight stakes victories.

Texas Chili, Sempai, Con Quixote, and Beyond Brilliant are all northern California-based sprint stakes winners, and Twentythreejaybird is approaching peak form.

On the female side, Lacie Girl has run six furlongs 10 times. She has won seven and her three losses were all by a nose.

And she may not even be the best female sprinter in the area. Ema Bovary, who captured the six-furlong Camilla Urso the day after More Crafty's Albany victory, handed Lacie Girl her first sprint defeat and may be even better now.

Northern California has been the home of outstanding sprinters before. Soviet Problem ran second in the 1994 Breeders' Cup Sprint and Bedside Promise was third in the 1986 Sprint.

In the late 1980's and early 1990's, four outstanding sprinters competed against each other: Black Jack Road, still the Bay Meadows record holder at six furlongs; Valley Land, the Golden Gate Fields record holder at five furlongs; Ambessa, who for a long time held the Golden Gate six-furlong record; and stakes winner Roberto Grande.

"When Valley Land, Black Jack Road, and Ambessa were running, there were three, four, or five [sprinters] who ran well," Valley Land's trainer, Doug Utley, said. "But we've got a pretty solid bunch right now."

Fordell Fierce, now Ron Warren's agent, trained Black Jack Road. While he hedges about whether today's runners could have beaten his star, he said: "There are more good runners probably right now. It goes in waves."

R.L. Martin, who trained Bedside Promise, can't remember more depth in the sprint division.

Soviet Problem's trainer, Greg Gilchrist, the current trainer of Beyond Brilliant, said: "There's been some good sprinters, but you have to go a long way back to find anything like this. This is certainly one of the best times we've had. There's a crowd of them right now."

Leading trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who has Lacie Girl, said that the local sprint division is "deeper than it has been."

"It's not like Southern California, but it's tough here, and I expect many divisions will get tougher," he said.

My Captain's trainer, Art Sherman, said: "It's been a long time since I've seen that many good sprinters. I think a lot of people are upgrading their stock. Everybody's trying to come up with a good horse."

Pace projections

Pace could be a real key in Wednesday's Golden Gate Fields features.

Marty's Zee could be the lone speed in an $80,000 optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, although comebacking Thunder and Rain could press her. Marty's Zee is capable of going 45 and change, but she stole her last race, opening up with fractions of 24.50 and 49.46 seconds.

"You've got to ride the way the race comes up, but she's real tough if she doesn't have to go too fast early," trainer Bill Mahorney said. "My concern is if the turf firms up."

Commercant Vic looks like the one to beat in a 1 1/16- mile allowance race. He has good speed, but there is a lot of speed in the race. If he can sit just off the pace until the quarter pole, he could notch his third straight victory.