10/11/2006 12:00AM

Spawr hesitant to say 'Let's run'


ARCADIA, Calif. - Under normal circumstances, if a trainer is sitting on the fastest, most consistent older sprinter in North America around this time of year, he has already made shipping plans for the Breeders' Cup, nailed down hotel and dinner reservations, and even picked out the coat and tie he would like to be wearing on national television that day.

Then there is Bill Spawr, the man who cares for the guided missile known as Bordonaro. Still a bit lightheaded from Bordonaro's blistering performance in last weekend's Ancient Title Handicap, Spawr is coming off like some backstretch Hamlet, agonizing over whether or not to take the 5-year-old gelding to Churchill Downs for the big dance on Nov. 4.

Spawr's initial reaction was to view the Ancient Title through the prism of past experience, worrying that the timing of the Breeders' Cup Sprint would violate Bordonaro's established comfort zone. After all, the horse has raced only four times in 2006 - in January, April, July, and now October. Asking him to race again in November could be trifling with a delicate formula.

Spawr, though, is enough of a horseman to let the horse tell the tale, and by Wednesday morning Bordonaro seemed to be softly humming "My Old Kentucky Home." Skeptical, Spawr walked away and came back, more than once, finally pronouncing that the chances of Bordonaro running in the Breeders' Cup Sprint had gone "from 50-50 to 55-45." Don't ask him to move any faster than that.

"There's about 20 things we're looking at, weighing the positive and the negative," Spawr said. "Right now I'm looking for excuses not to run, and I'm not finding them."

In the past, Bordonaro's races have taken an obvious toll. A fractured sesamoid behind kept him away from the races until February of his 4-year-old season, and now he has won 9 of his 12 starts since.

"It usually takes him a week to 10 days to bounce back from a race," Spawr said. "His hair would turn dull and he'd lose weight. But not this time - and he just ran 1:07 and change the other day. This time it took him two days."

Spawr is not the kind of horseman to simply accept such good news and plow ahead. He needs to know why things have changed, and he said he thinks it is because Bordonaro no longer is plagued by a lameness behind that was never satisfactorily diagnosed. He was vastly improved this summer at Del Mar, and even better over the ensuing weeks.

"We had done nuclear scans, X-rays and more scans, and nothing ever showed," Spawr noted. "It must have been a muscle, real deep. So I'm hoping those issues are farther and farther in the past."

Granted all the time in the world by owners Fred Carrillo and Dan Cassella, Spawr has been using time between races as Bordonaro's best tonic. They have been rewarded with five stakes wins and close to $642,164 in earnings, and now Bordonaro is poised to bring home a national championship . . . if the rest of those 20 questions can be answered. Such as:

* Is the risk worth the $130,000, plus entry and starting fees, it would require from the owners to make Bordonaro eligible to the Breeders' Cup? "They've left it up to me, but I respect their investment," Spawr said. "I look at it as our money - if they lose, I lose."

* Bordonaro has won at Santa Anita, Hollywood (dirt), Del Mar, Oaklawn, and Gulfstream, but will he handle the Churchill Downs surface? "I think he'll love that kind of surface," Spawr said. "It's similar to Oaklawn Park, and he loved it there."

* What about the competition? "There's three or four horses I'm really concerned with," Spawr said. "I've got a lot of respect for Henny Hughes, but the one I'm really worried about is Siren Lure."

* Can Spawr rely on his jockey? The troubled Patrick Valenzuela, back and riding strong after a two-month absence, is unbeaten in four races on Bordonaro. "We've got to watch P. Val, and make sure he gets up every day," Spawr said. "If he doesn't ride the horse, we don't go."

* Does the temptation of possibly winning an Eclipse Award with a gelding make a difference, other than bragging rights? "The owners still own the mare," Spawr said. "And they have all the siblings, so something like that becomes significant in terms of their value."

And then there is always the potential for personal recognition - or at least 15 minutes worth of fame - accorded to those attached to a Breeders' Cup winner. Spawr, who has started four Breeders' Cup runners in the past, laughs off the idea.

"I don't think about that," he insisted. "I've got enough to think about with the horse."

Which is what he will do right up until Oct. 23, when a decision must be made.

"I mean, I know him so well," said Spawr, who trained Bordonaro's dam, Miss Excitement. "I saw him the week after he was born. And I followed him all along.

"He's a unique horse," the trainer concluded. "He can do freaky things - throw a race at you that you can hardly believe. All the time we've given him has been worthwhile, so the least we can do is take a little time now to make sure we do the right thing by the horse."