10/25/2006 11:00PM

Spot the Diplomat has Super Image to catch


ARCADIA, Calif. - Super Image enters the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile with a three-race win streak and one possible glitch - the front-runner has never raced around two turns.

A fast gelding sired by High Brite, Super Image enters off three sprint-race romps. But can he go long?

"I don't have the answer for that," trainer Lloyd Mason admitted. "His mother could go long, so we feel the breeding is there. I think the horse will rate."

Super Image will rate on the lead, because none of his rivals, including favorite Spot the Diplomat, are nearly as quick as he is. A field of 10 entered the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile, race 7, in which Spot the Diplomat will be closely scrutinized. That's because his performance influences the analysis of two key Breeders' Cup starters.

Spot the Diplomat finished third in the Grade 2 Norfolk Stakes, well behind Breeders' Cup contenders Stormello and Principle Secret. If the Norfolk was legitimate, Spot the Diplomat should win the Cal Cup and flatter Stormello and Principle Secret. If the Norfolk was a phony race on a speed-favoring track, Spot the Diplomat will be exposed.

But don't count on it. Trained by Carla Gaines, Spot the Diplomat won three sprints before he stretched out and took on open company in the Norfolk. He was hounded through a fast pace, remained in contention until midstretch, then weakened. He was beaten 6 1/2 lengths, but the effort stamps this son of Worldly Manner as the Cal Cup Juvenile favorite.

To win, Spot the Diplomat must catch Super Image. A son of High Brite, Super Image's dam is To B. Super, a former low-level sprint claimer who won the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes at a mile on turf in the final start of her career in 1996. To B. Super's best previous foal was sprinter Our Free Bee.

Super Image finished fourth in his debut before reeling off three straight wins. Based in northern California, Super Image stayed at Santa Anita after winning an allowance sprint Oct. 11.

"We put a lot of long gallops in him," Mason said, while recognizing the challenge of stretching his speed 1 1/16 miles. "If it was a mile, we would have been happy."

The new shooter is Pirates Deputy, winner of the $99,000 Gottstein Futurity at Emerald Downs. Purchased privately after that score, the Bertrando gelding was sent in late October to trainer Bob Baffert.

"He wants to run all day," Baffert said.

Also in the Cal Cup Juvenile field are Freesgood, Swiss Ski, Turquoise N Gold, Vice Admiral, Seliman, The Supply Program, and Baby I'm Lonely.