Updated on 09/16/2011 6:39AM

Sprint stars in spotlight


NEW ORLEANS - Round three of five in the Fair Grounds sprint stakes division comes up Saturday. A few fresh challengers were rounded up, but the heavy hitters remain the same. Bonapaw, Abajo, and a revitalized *, players in sprint stakes here for the last several seasons, renew their rivalry in the $75,000 Colonel Power Handicap.

The Colonel Power follows the Thanksgiving and Gaudin Handicaps and precedes the Taylor's Special and Pelleteri Handicaps in the five-sprint-stakes series. With no chute on the main track, Fair Grounds can't card sprints at a distance greater than six furlongs, which means all these races look the same not only in terms of whose running, but also in how far they run.

The sameness is skewed this time by the absence of the Gaudin winner, Robin De Nest, who is on holiday at the moment. He won the Gaudin at the expense of Bonapaw, who broke slowly and was rushed into a fast pace, winding up third, and Crucible, who was trapped inside during the stretch run and beaten only a nose.

For Crucible, it was his best race in years, and trainer Mark Frostad's barn thinks a change in pre-race routine that day might have helped Crucible, who was left in his stall the day before the Gaudin rather than undergoing a typical morning exercise.

Bonapaw loves to exercise. Since his upset loss in his last start, Bonapaw has worked twice, and when Bonapaw works, he works bullets. On Dec. 29 he went a half-mile in 47.80 seconds, fastest of 88 works at the distance. On Jan. 6 he went a half-mile in 48.20 seconds, fastest of 44 works over a sloppy track.

A winner of five starts and close to $400,000 last season, Bonapaw, the probable favorite under Gerard Melancon, drops one pound, from 123 to 122, off the Gaudin, but still gives Crucible six pounds and Abajo a whopping nine pounds.

The weight spread between Abajo and Bonapaw is meaningful, considering Abajo won two of the Fair Grounds sprint stakes last year, and was a solid fourth, after setting a torrid pace, coming back from a five-month layoff in the Gaudin. Abajo might have been too sharp for his own good in his last start, has put in three breezes since his race, and might be tough to run down Saturday.

District won the Colonel Power last season with a dramatic stretch run, but returns this year with losses in his only three starts since that big win. District did show improvement in a recent allowance try here, and certainly will have pace to run at Saturday.

Vinnie's Boy, Entrepreneur, Holy Gem, and Lac Grand complete the field.

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