11/04/2006 1:00AM

Thor's Echo dominates at 15-1

Thor's Echo, with Corey Nakatani up, wins the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Doug O'Neill and owners Pablo Suarez and Royce Jaime were hanging their heads a bit after Thor's Echo drew post position 1 for Saturday's $2,130,000 . But in the end, the seemingly unlucky draw proved to be a blessing in disguise and helped propel the California invader Thor's Echo to a convincing four-length victory over 58-1 longshot Friendly Island in the six-furlong Sprint.

Under a beautifully judged ride by jockey Corey Nakatani, Thor's Echo saved ground while chasing embattled leaders Bordonaro and Attila's Storm down the backstretch, angled out three wide before eventually wresting control at the top of the stretch, then drew off with complete authority. Friendly Island also benefited from his inside post, saving ground into the stretch before easing out and outfinishing fellow longshot Nightmare Affair by a half-length for second.

Bordonaro was hard used contesting the pace into the stretch and ultimately finished a tiring fourth. Henny Hughes, the 8-5 favorite coming into the Sprint off three consecutive one-sided victories, stumbled briefly at the break and was never a factor, checking home last in a field of 14 sprint specialists.

Thor's Echo, a 4-year-old son of Swiss Yodeler, paid $33.20 after covering the distance in 1:08.80 over a fast track. He also keyed huge exotic payoffs that included a $113,911.80 superfecta return for a $2 wager. The victory was his first in six starts during a 2006 campaign that also included second-place finishes in the Dubai Golden Shaheen and the Grade 1 Ancient Title.

"At first we were really down about drawing the rail but after watching the earlier races we really started to get excited because it was obvious the rail was the place to be and we even started joking about how we could probably sell that post for good money before the race," said O'Neill, who won the 2005 Juvenile with Stevie Wonderboy.

"When we talked to Corey in the paddock me and the owners both said at the same time to just stay on the rail," O'Neill explained. "And even though the post helped, Corey did a fantastic job maneuvering him out like he did."

Nakatani said he wanted to stay on the rail as long as he could but once leaving the backstretch had no choice but to angle out and go after the leaders.

"On the turn I had so much horse that if I had stayed on the rail much longer I would have run over the ones in front of me," said Nakatani. "As we got to the quarter pole I decided we should just go and put the race away now."

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said jockey John Velazquez told him Henny Hughes never handled the track at any point of the race.

"John said he knew after he'd gone two jumps he was in trouble," said McLaughlin. "He said he was just spinning his wheels and never got a hold of the track. That's never happened to him before but Churchill Downs can be a little funny. He's always been a bit of a slow breaker but the start wasn't the problem."