06/03/2003 11:00PM

Sprint could be shootout


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Sprint will feature speed in El Dorado Shooter and even more speed in Presidio Heights.

The two have captured the past four sprint stakes run in northern California, going wire to wire each time.

They have met one time, in the Danville Handicap at Golden Gate Fields on March 22.

Presidio Heights, under Roberto Gonzalez, may have caught El Dorado Shooter and his rider, Russell Baze, by surprise, opening a two-length lead down the backstretch. Presidio Heights ran the opening quarter in 21.08 seconds and the half in a mind-boggling 42.89, holding on to win by a neck in 1:08.11.

Baze, who will ride Halo Cat on Saturday, thinks Presidio Heights may have a little more initial quickness.

"When I rode Presidio Heights, he guns out of the gate," Baze said.

Gonzalez said El Dorado Shooter "doesn't have to be on the lead," but said that with Presidio Heights, "I think he has only one way to go. I know he runs as hard as he can."

"He's been right on his game," added Gonzalez.

If anybody can match Presidio Heights's early speed, it is El Dorado Shooter. In his past three starts, he has run the opening half in 43.18, 43.19, and 43.21 seconds.

Presidio Heights went a leisurely 43.38 here in his last start, when he won the Atherton Handicap April 19.

"Even rating, it's hard for these two to go 44," said Art Sherman, Presidio Heights's trainer.

El Dorado Shooter and Presidio Heights are more than just speed freaks.

"Presidio Heights doesn't cave in," Baze said. "He slows down, but he doesn't cave in."

"My horse puts the fractions up, but he stays," Gonzalez said of Presidio Heights. "You have to catch him at the five-eighths pole, because this horse is not going to give up."

Neither is El Dorado Shooter.

In the Ken Maddy Sprint on Feb. 22 at Golden Gate Fields, he and Giovannetti battled head-and-head every step of the six-furlong race, with El Dorado Shooter prevailing by a head through fractions of 21.08 and 43.18 seconds.

The final time that day was 1:09.08, as even stone closer Radar Contact couldn't catch the pair.

Many believe that race would have set up perfectly for Echo Eddie had he not stumbled at the start and lost his rider.

"If Echo Eddie had tried to keep up with us, maybe he wouldn't have been able to finish with us," said Cliff Delima, who trains El Dorado Shooter. "He did try to come at [El Dorado Shooter] before and couldn't get up."

Although El Dorado Shooter was inside Giovannetti in the Ken Maddy and Presidio Heights was inside El Dorado Shooter in the Danville, both trainers are hoping for an outside draw, even though the field will likely be small.

"It always helps," Delima said.

"I want to be outside," Sherman said. "If you're on the inside, you have to go."

As if either horse would do anything else.

Frisco Belle back after Emeryville

Frisco Belle, a runner-up in the Emeryville Stakes on May 17, is the one to beat in Friday's feature, a $50,000 optional claimer at six furlongs for 3-year-old fillies. Frisco Belle, making her first start since an Aug. 31 allowance victory, rallied wide to catch longshot Dancing Spray for second in the Emeryville and will have to run her down again.

Dee Dee's Diner, Hostility, and Market Garden round out the field.