10/27/2004 11:00PM

Speightstown committed to front

Clock Stopper (left), alongside trainer Dallas Stewart, is a candidate to upset Speightstown in the Sprint.

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Speightstown will be favored in Saturday's $1,060,000 Breeders' Cup Sprint, but he has his work cut out for him. He will have to run every step of the way in the six-furlong race after his strategy was decided for him at the draw, when he was assigned post 2 in the field of 13.

The inside post forces Speightstown to be in the race from the bell, and he will have to endure pace pressure from horses like defending champ Cajun Beat, Champali, Our New Recruit, Cuvee, Abbondanza, and Gold Storm. Then, he will have to hold off late bids from quality closers like Kela, Midas Eyes, and $90,000 supplement Pt's Grey Eagle.

"I think any thoughts of trying to stalk went out the window at the draw," said Todd Pletcher, who trains Speightstown for Eugene and Laura Melnyk.

If he prevails in the Sprint, the final race of his career, Speightstown will strengthen his case as champion sprinter. He put four consecutive stakes wins together this year, and the career-best Beyer Figure of 117 he earned for his win in the Grade 2 Vanderbilt at Saratoga is the highest number earned by a sprinter in 2004.

"This is a world championship event to me, and if you want to be the champion you've got to show up and run the biggest race," said Pletcher. "If he wins, he makes a very strong case for himself."

Speightstown comes into the Sprint off a third-place finish in the Vosburgh to Pico Central, the current front-runner for champion sprinter. There are reasons to believe Speightstown will rebound with a strong race Saturday. Pletcher characterized the Belmont track for the Vosburgh as loose, and such a surface works against a front-running horse like Speightstown.

"He's been running [1:08] flat or close to it all year, and the winner went in 1:09, which indicates to me the track was cuppy," he said. "He seems to like fast footing, a hard-type surface, and I think he will get a relatively fast track on the day."

John Velazquez has the mount on Speightstown.

Jerry Bailey will be aboard Kela. Trainer Mike Mitchell put a fuller cup on Kela's blinkers this summer and sent him out to a career win in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup at Del Mar. Kela earned a Beyer Figure of 116.

Mitchell said he is hopeful the Sprint will set up for Kela, who comes from behind.

"I think there's a lot of speed," he said. "It seems like in these races they all go."

Mitchell said he would not change Kela's running style.

Our New Recruit also invades from Southern California. He won the $2 million Golden Shaheen at Nad al Sheba in Dubai in March. He returned to action in September and won the restricted $75,000 Pirate's Bounty Handicap at Del Mar. Since then, Our New Recruit has turned in a series of strong works for the Sprint, his final one a six-furlong drill in a bullet 1:12.20 at Santa Anita on Oct. 24.

"The way he did it was just nice and easy on a track that was not a 100 percent normal track, since we had all that heavy rain last week," said John Sadler, who trains Our New Recruit. "So you could kind of call it a drying-out track."

Sadler also said Our New Recruit wore bar shoes in front for the workout. He wears them for protection now after healing from quarter cracks last year. The bar shoes are always replaced with regular race plates on race day, said Sadler.

Our New Recruit, who will be ridden by Tyler Baze, can race closer to the pace than Kela and should get a favorable stalking trip Saturday.

Another who can upset is Clock Stopper, who in his last start was a troubled third to millionaire Champali in the Grade 3 Phoenix Breeders' Cup.

"He got boxed in the last eighth of a mile," said Dallas Stewart, who trains Clock Stopper. "I thought it cost him the race."

Other horses of note in the Sprint include Midas Eyes, who will be shortening up from seven furlongs after his smashing win in the Gradeo1 Forego.

"He can run six furlongs no problem," said Bobby Frankel, the trainer of Midas Eyes. "Instead of being two or three off, he'll be five or six off it."

Gold Storm is another notable starter. The runner-up in the Phoenix, he will retur to his hometrack of Lone Star Park for the Sprint and will have a large cheering section Saturday.

"Oh, I think all of Texas will be pulling for him," said trainer Bubba Cascio.

The field

Breeders' Cup Sprint
Purse: $1.06 million; 6 furlongs; Grade 1

1Bwana CharlieR. Migliore12330-1
2SpeightstownJ. Velazquez1263-1
3ChampaliR. Bejarano12610-1
4Our New RecruitT. Baze1268-1
5KelaJ. Bailey1268-1
6AbbondanzaE. Coa12350-1
7Clock StopperP. Day1266-1
8Pt's Grey EagleC. Nakatani12320-1
9Gold StormL. Taylor12615-1
10CuveeR. Albarado12330-1
11Cajun BeatC. Velasquez1266-1
12My Cousin MattR. Dominguez12650-1
13Midas EyesE. Prado1265-1

* 9 percent supplementary nomination: Pt's Grey Eagle
* Odds by Mike Watchmaker