09/26/2001 12:00AM

'Sharper' a standout in Sires Stakes


ARCADIA, Calif. - A choice that trainer Mike Harrington made about Sharper Too during the summer turned out to be one of his best calls of the year.

In August, Harrington considered putting Sharper Too in a claiming race. When he realized that the colt could be taken, he changed his mind. Sharper Too went on to win the I'm Smokin Stakes for statebreds on Sept. 3.

On Friday, Sharper Too will be a heavy favorite in the colts and geldings division of the $100,000 California Sires Stakes over seven furlongs at Santa Anita.

"I toyed with running him for a price, but I wanted to give him one more shot," Harrington said.

Sharper Too is the only multiple winner in the field of eight, which is restricted to

2-year-old progeny of nominated stallions.

Sharper Too, co-owned by Harrington and Keith and Joy Vanderhouwen, is by High Brite. Sharper Too drew post 2, which did not please Harrington.

The last time Sharper Too started inside he took an early lead in the Graduation Stakes at Del Mar on July 25, but faded to finish fourth, 12 lengths behind Officer, the top 2-year-old in the nation.

"He went too fast down on the inside," Harrington said. "He kind of needs a good trip."

Sharper Too is the lone stakes winner in the field, but faces Synergize, who was third in the I'm Smokin, and Four Cards Too, who was third in the Beau Brummel Stakes on Sept. 14.

The other six starters are maidens or won their first races in maiden races for claimers. Phoney Gold and Time to Strike are an entry since Mel Stute owns part of Phoney Gold and trains Time to Strike. The Sires Stakes will be Phoney Gold's 10th start. He has not finished in the first three in six starts since winning a maiden race last May.

For $100,000, the Sires Stakes has not drawn a strong field, making Sharper Too a standout. Still, the race is a test for Sharper Too. Before Harrington and his partners consider a start in the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile over 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 3, they must see progress.

"I think he's a decent colt as long as I can run him against Cal-breds," Harrington said. "I'll see how he handles the seven furlongs and see about the Cal Cup. His whole family was sprinters, but you never know. He's learning to relax."