12/18/2008 12:00AM

White Spar drops down to face statebreds


White Spar was just humming right along, dominating his peers sprinting last year at 2 and this year at 3, even beating elder Arizona-breds in the Grand Canyon at Turf Paradise in April. That came to a screeching halt when top older sprinter Came to Pass whipped him back into seventh in the Caballos del Sol here Nov. 8.

White Spar looks to get some of the luster back as he leads the $50,000 Cactus Wren Handicap at Turf Paradise on Saturday. The 6 1/2-furlong event for Arizona-bred 3-year-olds and up lured a field of nine.

The move from open company to statebreds should help White Spar get back on track. The 3-year-old gelding, owned by Dennis Weir and trained by Kevin Lewis, has been terrific, winning 5 of 10, including four sprint stakes at this track. After a second in the Captain Squire at Hollywood Park in June, he didn't race until Oct. 3, opening day here, in the Luke Kruytbosch. He sat just off the pace and finished full of run to win going away. That sent him into the Caballos del Sol, and he was beaten 6 1/4 lengths at 3-1.

Daniel Vergara rides White Spar, the 124-pound highweight in the Cactus Wren.

His main challenge may come from a familiar face. El Mirage, another 3-year-old, is also owned by Weir and trained by Lewis, and he has won two stakes, including the Lost in the Fog here a year ago over White Spar. He rallied to win an optional claimer here Nov. 18 in his last race. Ry Eikleberry rides El Mirage at 123 pounds.

Corporal Tillman may be peaking for the Cactus Wren. The 5-year-old gelding was third in this race last year and failed to make much of an impact in his first six starts of 2008. But he romped over $3,000 restricted claimers here Nov. 1, and was claimed that day by trainer Mike Chambers. Corporal Tillman promptly came back at more than double his claimed value to win a turf sprint here Nov. 23. Seth Martinez, up for that turf win, rides again.

- Michael Hammersly