01/25/2007 12:00AM

Speedy Texas Voyager faces several hurdles


Texas Voyager will represent Florida-breds in the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Dash on Saturday at Gulfstream Park, but he embodies California. California speed, that is. His wickedly fast debut, in which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 103, makes Texas Voyager the likely favorite in the six-furlong race for 3-year-old males.

Texas Voyager, however, will be facing 13 rivals, is marooned in post 14, is coming back on two just weeks' rest, has had to ship across the country, and will need a new rider, since jockey Martin Garcia will be unable to travel to Gulfstream, according to trainer Bob Baffert. So, those looking to try and beat him have plenty of ammunition.

But Texas Voyager has a few bullets in his holster. He crushed 10 rivals in his debut, winning by 7 1/2 lengths going 5 1/2 furlongs on Jan. 13 against maidens at Santa Anita. That race was against open company, so while he is moving into a stakes race, it is a restricted stakes. In addition, Baffert believes Texas Voyager can improve off his debut.

"I knew he was a fast horse," Baffert said Thursday morning from Santa Anita. "He's a good-looking horse. But I thought he might need one. Once he got to the three-eighths pole, I realized he was a lot fitter than I thought he was.

"Coming back in two weeks is a little bit soon, but when he worked on Monday, he worked really well. Now he looks like he's ready to roll. I'm comfortable bringing him right back. He's extremely, extremely talented."

Texas Voyager was purchased after his debut by Bob and Janice McNair's Stonerside Stable from previous owner Murray Smith.

Eleven of the 14 runners in the Dash are Florida-bred. Florida is also represented by Leonardo, who comes off a fast first-level allowance win at Laurel; Another Kris, an unbeaten California-based colt who has won twice at Bay Meadows for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer; and another undefeated California-based colt, Ididn'tdoanything, who won twice on Hollywood Park's Cushion Track surface last fall.

The best hope for the California-breds lies with the Cliff Sise-trained entry of Complexity and Idiot Proof. Complexity is winless in two starts, but comes off a third-place finish in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes at Santa Anita in which he was part of a torrid pace. Stablemate Idiot Proof was a runaway winner of his debut last summer at Hollywood Park. He has not raced since because of a fractured tibia, according to Sise.

California's only other runner is Sarand Star, who was fourth in the Cal Breeders' Stakes after pressing the pace. He is making his sixth start in 10 weeks.