10/11/2001 12:00AM

As usual, Shot of Gold should fire


PHOENIX, Ariz. - There have been more than a couple of times when it looked as if the shine was coming off Shot of Gold. Nevertheless, at age 6 he has proven as durable and consistent as an old Timex, and that makes him the horse to beat in Saturday's $30,000 Caballo del Sol Handicap at Turf Paradise.

The six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and upward has lured a strong field of 10.

On paper, it looks very much like Shot of Gold's race to lose. Trained by David Van Winkle, he has had a marvelous career, winning 21 of 42 races and earning more than $500,000. He's won stakes at numerous tracks, and comes into this off three consecutive sprint wins at Canterbury Park in Minnesota.

While most of Shot of Gold's reputation has been made routing, he's 4 for 7 going six furlongs, and has won the last four times he went around one turn. His only dull recent races came on turf. He's 5 for his last 8 on dirt. He carries co-highweight of 120 pounds under David Bell, and breaks from post 3.

Many of the best sprinters from the Southwest will challenge Shot of Gold.

Stormy Ambition has won 13 races at Turf Paradise, including a number of stakes, and has been among the best sprinters on the Arizona circuit the past year or so. After a late spring vacation, he rattled off two consecutive stakes wins at Yavapai before finishing second in an optional claimer here Sept. 28.

Stormy Ambition, who carries 119 pounds, has sizzling speed, but he must deal with plenty of other speed, including Quinton's Gold, who beat him in the Sept. 28 optional claiming sprint.

Quinton's Gold, who also carries 119 pounds, hinted at major potential in Southern California last year, but after finishing second in the Foothill at Fairplex in September 2000 he didn't race until this past June.

He ran big in an optional claimer at Hollywood in his comeback race, finishing second and earning a 101 Beyer Figure, but then ran three poor races. His victory over Stormy Ambition last out indicates he may have turned things around.

Another contender is Classy Sheikh (119 pounds), who like Stormy Ambition has been among the circuit's top sprinters the past year or so.

Better Choice has been a little off form lately, but he has been one of Boise's top sprinters the past few seasons.

Eagleton (120 pounds) may be a factor. He is 3 for 4 at Turf Paradise and has run well in graded stakes, though most of his best races have come routing on turf.

Other contenders include Don't Walk at Nite, one of New Mexico's top sprinters, and Oh Gracie, who comes off two wins at Colorado's Arapahoe Park.

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