10/03/2008 12:00AM

Torrid pace could knock out the favorites


ARCADIA, Calif. - All the best horses in the $150,000 California Cup Sprint are speed horses, and none has a prayer to win.

The prospect of a wickedly fast pace spells doom for Grade 1 winner Johnny Eves, Grade 3 winner High Standards, and multiple stakes winner Tribesman, who might otherwise be considered legitimate favorites in the six-furlong Sprint, race 8 on the California Cup card.

Those three speedsters, along with front-runners Bro Lo, Young Joe, and Zuri Mwana, probably would run each other ragged on any surface. But over a Pro-Ride racing surface that punishes contested speed, many handicappers this meet agree that the first thing to do is discount the heat.

Since the initial six-furlong race of the Oak Tree meet on Sept. 25, won gate to wire by 3-10 favorite Details R Sketchy, none of the next 16 races at six furlongs (through Friday) had been won by the pacesetter.

The dynamics of the surface, and the pace, are not lost on Marty Jones, trainer of front-runner High Standards.

"It probably would be better if there wasn't so much speed," Jones said.

High Standards is buried in post 3, inside six other front-runners, and directly inside Johnny Eves.

The last race Johnny Eves won was Dec. 26 at Santa Anita in the Grade 1 Malibu, where he sat off the pace.

"In order for him to sit, it probably would be better if he drew outside," trainer Jay Robbins said.

Trouble is, Johnny Eves is stuck in post 4.

The beneficiaries of an expected pace battle are deep-closing allowance horses Lit'sgoodlookngray and Partywithlarryz. Both are 4-year-old geldings with styles that would benefit from a hot pace. John Sadler trains Partywithlarryz, and admits he is taking a shot with a horse that is seemingly outclassed.

"It's a day that you do take shots - it's that kind of day," said Sadler, whose six Cal Cup wins rank second behind Bob Baffert's eight wins. Sadler said Partywithlarryz "is doing better than ever."

Partywithlarryz is in the Cal Cup Sprint only because Sadler started his best Cal-bred sprinter - Cost of Freedom - in the Grade 1 Ancient Title, which he won.

"When we decided to go with Cost of Freedom in the other one, we said, 'Let's take a shot in the Cal Cup with Partywithlarryz,' " Sadler said.

Lit'sgoodlookngray finished second last out at Fairplex Park in a fast allowance race, and he may have the fitness edge over Partywithlarryz. Meanwhile, the 3-year-old Topper Shopper has won two straight by daylight, and after his most recent pace-pressing win in a stakes at Fairplex, jockey Martin Pedroza told trainer Bill Spawr: "I can put him wherever I want; he really relaxes."

Topper Shopper will have to take back and rally around in order to win the Sprint, his first start against older. Spawr claimed him for $80,000 in May, and said, "He's changed so much, he's just so good right now."

Bestdressed drew the inside post, which will not hurt. He routinely is outrun early, but often rallies late. Though he ran poorly in his comeback, a return to top form would make him a contender.