10/23/2003 12:00AM

The winner? Look for the blue collar


ARCADIA, Calif. - The question in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint is: From what side of the tracks will the winner come?

Aristocratic handicappers prefer future stallions Aldebaran (by Mr. Prospector) and Yankee Gentleman (by Storm Cat). But to win the Sprint, they must get dirty by rallying from behind over a racing surface that, if the weather holds, may compromise their style.

Raw speed is required, and two scrappers plucked from racing's lower class - Shake You Down and Bluesthestandard - possess enough gas. They are former claiming horses whose futures never included stallion duty. They are geldings, grizzled speedsters who make their living the hard way - on the racetrack, racing as fast and as far as they can.

After mulling his inside draw and consulting with owner Robert Cole, Shake You Down's trainer Scott Lake said: "We're going to shoot for the lead. [Cole] loves those speed horses. He wants to be in front . . . catch me if you can."

The aggressive strategy makes sense. A local weather phenomenon - Santa Ana winds - was expected to kick in Thursday. The hot, dry winds complicate track maintenance, and Santa Anita track superintendent Steve Wood admits the track tends to favor speed in such circumstances.

Shake You Down is good enough to exploit the edge. A multiple graded stakes winner, he enters with the best six-furlong figures in the field.

Claimed for $65,000 by Lake and subsequently sold to Cole, Shake You Down has won six of his last seven and is being supplemented for $90,000.

Bluesthestandard, another $90,000 supplement, has won 4 of 9 since being claimed for $50,000 last year by trainer Ted H. West and owner Jeffrey Sengara.

"It's not a horse we spent $700,000 for at a fashionable yearling sale," said Sengara. "This is a horse culled from the claiming ranks. It magnifies the whole experience."

A winner of two graded stakes this year, Bluesthestandard will need to magnify his speed figures to win. His career-high Beyer Figure is 111, and the Sprint is typically won with a 114 or higher.

Valid Video is the best of the five 3-year-olds, and his win in the Grade 1 King's Bishop led him to the Sprint. His best Beyers are 107 and 110, but the 3-year-old has more to give.

"I don't have any doubt he's on his way up," said trainer Dennis Manning.

Valid Video is 6 of 7 sprinting, and figures for a pace-pressing trip.

The other 3-year-olds are in tough. Zavata is one of the chosen ones, a $575,000 juvenile with three graded stakes wins. But his 2003 campaign has been a bust and got no better at the draw - Zavata breaks from the rail. Posse comes from the clouds; Grade 3 winner Midas Eyes has not raced since June and not at six furlongs this year.

Ethan Man makes his third start following a layoff and earned a lifetime best Beyer (111) three weeks ago in a Grade 3 stakes at Keeneland; Private Horde, a $90,000 supplement, produces stakes-caliber figures only when the track is wet; Cajun Beat's last start was a powerful (113 Beyer) win in the Kentucky Cup Sprint; and Great Notion suffered a brutal trip in his last start.

If the pace melts, bluebloods Aldebaran and Yankee Gentleman could win the race that may determine champion sprinter. Yankee Gentleman's three starts in graded stakes have yet to produce an in-the-money finish. Aldebaran is a seven-furlong closer racing six furlongs for the first time.