Updated on 09/15/2011 1:04PM

Squirtle Squirt rising to the occasion


ELMONT, N.Y. - When Bobby Frankel took over the training of Squirtle Squirt earlier this year, he wasn't all that impressed with the colt.

"He wasn't a real comfortable horse to train," Frankel said. "I didn't know how to take it."

Whatever apprehensions Frankel had about the horse in the morning were erased in the afternoon as Squirtle Squirt has put in four solid efforts to become a legitimate contender for the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint, part of the World Thorough-bred Championships to be run here Oct. 27.

Just how legitimate a contender Squirtle Squirt is should become more apparent Saturday when the 3-year-old takes on older horses for the second time in the Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park. The $300,000 Vosburgh, the last Grade 1 sprint on the East Coast before the Breeders' Cup, is one of four stakes on an 11-race card that gets underway at 1 p.m. EDT.

The Vosburgh tops a card that includes the $100,000 Noble Damsel Handicap for females on turf, the rescheduled $150,000 Jerome Handicap for 3-year-olds, and the $75,000 Ashley T. Cole for New York-breds on turf. With four stakes on the card, Belmont will offer a Super Stakes pick four in addition to its daily pick four, which comprises races 8 through 11.

Squirtle Squirt is coming off a dominant 3 1/4-length victory in the King's Bishop where he led from start to finish. Frankel was equally impressed with Squirtle Squirt's two losses in California, where he dueled through suicidal fractions but was only narrowly defeated by a pair of closers.

"In those races, there were horses driving to go with him and they were eased," Frankel said. "That's when I knew I had something special."

This will be the fourth consecutive seven-furlong race for Squirtle Squirt.

Still, Frankel views it as the best way to get to the six-furlong Breeders' Cup Sprint in five weeks. He will not race again before the Breeders' Cup.

"I'm trying to find the easiest spots for him," Frankel said. "Why pass up a spot like this to worry about one race?"

The reason Frankel feels the Vosburgh may be an easy spot for Squirtle Squirt is that there doesn't appear to be anyone to run with him early. In his last four races, Squirtle Squirt has been able to run an opening half-mile in less than 44.40 seconds. The only other speed in the race appears to be Yonaguska, another 3-year-old, who has not been out since April 11.

Yonaguska will be coupled in the wagering with Left Bank, who is coming off a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Forego Handicap at Saratoga. Left Bank has run some of his best races at Belmont and is 4 for 6 at seven furlongs.

Usually a front-runner, Left Bank demonstrated in the Forego that he can run effectively from off the pace.

Peeping Tom and Say Florida Sandy also need someone to run with Squirtle Squirt. Peeping Tom makes his first start since finishing last in the July 4 Tom Fool Handicap. Before that, he had won three stakes - including the Grade 1 Carter - and finished second in the Metropolitan Handicap. Trainer Pat Reynolds freshened up him thereafter and believes Peeping Tom is ready to fire.

"If this horse is back to himself he'll be first or second," Reynolds said.

Say Florida Sandy, the 7-year-old New York-bred, has fired all year, finishing first or second in 10 of 11 starts. He is 7 for 15 at Belmont, but only 3 for 11 at seven furlongs as opposed to 23 for 51 at six furlongs.

"You really don't fear any horse because you know he's going to give you his race," said Aaron Gryder, who has been aboard Say Florida Sandy his last four races. "He may get beat, but it's only because he gets outrun.

Seven-eighths might not be his best distance, but he's still very good at it."

Alannan and Big E E, who both encountered trouble when third and seventh, respectively, in the Forego, and Philadelphia Park shipper Sly Ole Buck complete the field.