10/05/2005 11:00PM

Sprinters seek first taste of Grade 1 glory

Benoit & Associates
McCann's Mojave, winning the Ack Ack Handicap at Hollywood in June, will wear blinkers for the first time in Saturday's Grade 1 Ancient Title.

ARCADIA, Calif. - By the time the Del Mar meeting ended last month, Bilo and Captain Squire had made successful returns from layoffs, McCann's Mojave had left his team puzzled with a loss, and Indian Country had proven to be quite a claim.

Saturday, those four - along with , and Zanzibar - are seeking to enhance their reputations with a victory in the $250,000 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Stakes at Santa Anita. For any of the runners, a win would mark their first victory at the Grade 1 level and could lead to a start in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Belmont Park on Oct. 29.

may be a slight favorite, but bettors will have trouble backing him with confidence. Trained by Paddy Gallagher, McCann's Mojave won the Ack Ack Handicap at Hollywood Park in June and finished in a dead heat for second with Bear in the Woods in the Triple Bend Handicap in July, then ran seventh in the Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Handicap at Del Mar in August.

"He trained well for Del Mar, and that was a bit disappointing," Gallagher said. "I don't know if it was shipping down there or what. He's come back here and trained well."

McCann's Mojave won the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap here in March 2004, his most recent graded stakes win. For Saturday's race, McCann's Mojave, 5, will wear blinkers for the first time.

Gallagher described them as "cheater" blinkers, in that they will not significantly limit his vision.

"We put them on just for a little change," Gallagher said. "He's worn them several times in the morning."

Two years ago, Captain Squire would have been strongly favored to win against this modest of a group. He was second in the Ancient Title in 2003, a season in which he earned $419,625. Trained by Jeff Mullins for Bob Bone, Captain Squire returned from a layoff of more than 14 months to win a 5 1/2-furlong optional claimer on Aug. 24 at Del Mar.

"If he moves forward off that last race, he should be pretty tough," Mullins said, adding that one of the biggest advantages for Captain Squire is that "he's sounder this year."

"If he runs lights out, Bob is toying with the idea of running in the Breeders' Cup Sprint," Mullins said.

Bilo and Indian Country are coming off wins.

Bilo won an optional claimer at six furlongs by 4 1/4 lengths on Aug. 21. The Ancient Title is his graded stakes debut.

Indian Country won the restricted Pirate's Bounty Handicap on Sept. 7, his first start since being claimed for $50,000 by Janice Moody and trainer Thomas Hunter in August.

The field

Ancient Title
Purse: $250,000; 6 furlongs; Grade 1

1Captain SquireA. Solis5-2
2GotaghostofachanceJ. Court7-2
3McCann's MojaveG. Gomez3-1
4Indian CountryD. Flores6-1
5Bear in the WoodsC. Nakatani10-1
6ZanzibarK. Desormeaux10-1
7BiloV. Espinoza 9-2

* All starters carry 124 pounds
* Odds by Michael Hammersly
* Blinkers on: McCann's Mojave
* Television: Saturday, 6-7 p.m.. (Eastern), ESPN2