02/19/2008 12:00AM

Speed stands out in two sprints


ARCADIA, Calif. - The game is simple Thursday at Santa Anita, where the speed stands out in the two richest races.

Midnight Excess should shake loose in raceo3, a first-level allowance for older California-breds at 6o1/2 furlongs on turf. Likewise, Public Image figures to be long gone in race 7, a first-level allowance for 3-year-old Cal-breds at six furlongs on the main track. The purse is $52,000 for each race.

Midnight Excess is making his sixth start, and fourth since owners Al and Sandee Kirkwood purchased him for $205,000 from the Stan Fulton dispersal sale in October at Barretts. Craig Lewis trains the unlucky Midnight Excess, whose first two starts after the sale were brutal.

He was bumped off stride at the furlong pole and finished fifth in his first start for the Kirkwoods, and next out went to his nose at the break and finished next-to-last. Lewis said he thought blinkers might help.

"We wanted him to pay attention a little more, and then he paid too much attention," he said.

Midnight Excess added blinkers Jan. 19, and switched to the downhill turf course. But he went too fast. He opened a six-length lead after a half-mile, hit a wall late, and finished third.

"He should have won that race," Lewis said, "You can't open up by six" and expect to win.

Blinkers are off Thursday, and so is jockey Joe Talamo. David Flores is the new rider for Midnight Excess, who can race gate to wire if he rations his speed. His rivals include Skimmetry, Bestdressed, Lit'sgoodlookngray, and Austie.

Race 7 is equally straightforward. Bettors are expected to make Public Image the odds-on favorite when he faces four others. Owned and bred by Pam and Marty Wygod, and trained by Cliff Sise, Public Image returned from a six-month layoff Jan. 26 and won geared down in 1:07.50 for six furlongs.

"And that was with only one three-quarter work," Sise said.

Public Image, who earned an 88 Beyer winning by two lengths, is the controlling speed Thursday under Flores. Only five were entered, and Public Image's main rival has the opposite running style.

Deep closer Dee Dee's Legacy has been compromised twice this meet by speed-favoring racetracks, but the profile has faded since refurbishment of the Santa Anita surface. Dee Dee's Legacy drops out of two stakes won by Bob Black Jack, and he will be rolling late.

The question is whether he can catch a loose-on-the-lead front-runner.