10/23/2001 11:00PM

Sprint: Headley loves Kona Gold's position


ELMONT, N.Y. - The $1 million Sprint drew the largest and perhaps the most competitive field of the eight Breeders' Cup races to be run Saturday at Belmont Park when 14 horses passed through the entry box on Wednesday.

As expected, City Zip was not entered in the six-furlong Sprint and is part of the Mile field, his connections' first preference. The absence of City Zip allowed Hook and Ladder to draw into the Sprint from the alternate list. Three Sprint alternates didn't gain starting berths: Instead, Yonaguska and Snow Ridge will run in the $100,000-added Sport Page on the Breeders' Cup undercard, and I Love Silver remained in California.

Kona Gold, the likely favorite, tries to become the first horse to win two runnings of the Sprint after setting the stakes and track record last year at Churchill Downs. Kona Gold, a pace-presser, will be ridden by Alex Solis and drew post 4.

"I love the draw," Kona Gold's trainer and co-owner, Bruce Headley, said. "I was worried about being outside because he has just enough speed to be carried wide."

Two of the main speed horses, Xtra Heat and Squirtle Squirt, drew inside of Kona Gold. Xtra Heat, the lone filly in the field, drew the rail and figures to be under intense pressure from the other front-runners, Squirtle Squirt (post 3), Caller One (6), and Five Star Day (9).

Xtra Heat's trainer, John Salzman Sr., said the post his diminutive filly drew is not a concern.

"She'll be looking big when they are looking at her butt," Salzman said. "The rail is fine; she's not in the 14-hole."

The outside post went to longshot Hook and Ladder, who will be tracking the speed. Hook and Ladder's trainer, John Kimmel, said he wasn't put off by the draw.

"As long as the speed clears and we can get in behind them before they get to the bend, he'll be fine," Kimmel said.

Caller One is brilliantly fast and could be in front a few strides out of the gate, with the other speed hounding him. Last year, the gelding set the fastest opening quarter [20.82 seconds] and half-mile [43.56] in the Sprint's history, before weakening in the stretch and finishing fourth, three lengths behind Kona Gold. Caller One's trainer, Jim Chapman, said his horse will be on the lead again.

"He'll be out there," Chapman said. "This is a good spot for him because there's speed to his inside."

Last year in the Sprint, front-runner Five Star Day broke poorly and never was a factor, which allowed Caller One to gain a clear advantage after the first quarter.

El Corredor, a stalker, drew post 10, which will permit his rider, Victor Espinoza, to get position behind the early leaders.

This week, Delaware Township's trainer, Ben Perkins Jr., said he would like either posts 6 or 7. Perkins got his wish. Delaware Township, who holds a strong homecourt advantage at Belmont Park, drew post 7. The favorable draw makes up for last year when Delaware Township, who will be coming from off the pace, got stuck in post 14 and finished 10th after a wide trip.

Vosburgh winner Left Bank, who has learned to relax and come from off the pace in his races this year, also drew well in post 8.

Nine-year-old Bet on Sunshine, who is looking to become the oldest winner of a Breeders' Cup race, drew post 2, a tough spot for the closer who likes to make his winning moves from the outside. This week, Bet on Sunshine's trainer, Paul McGee, said "the inside is usually a negative."

Swept Overboard, the only horse to beat Kona Gold this season, drew post 12, which pleased his trainer, Craig Dollase.

The lone foreigner in the Sprint, Mozart, drew post 11, and makes his first start on the dirt.

Longshots Alannan (5) and Peeping Tom (13) complete the field.