Updated on 09/16/2011 8:23AM

Without Squirtle, a competitive Forest Hills


ELMONT, N.Y. - The $250,000 Forest Hills Handicap lost its star when Squirtle Squirt wasn't entered in the Grade 2 stakes on Sunday.

On Friday, a deal was signed to sell Squirtle Squirt to Japanese interests. Pending the results of blood tests, Squirtle Squirt, last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint winner and champion sprinter, will be sent to Japan on Oct. 26.

Avanzado is the likely favorite among eight males entered in the six-furlong Forest Hills. Avanzado and Say Florida Sandy carry 116 pounds as the co-highweights.

The Forest Hills should have little or no impact on the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Arlington on Oct. 26, though Dash for Daylight might go if he runs a big race Sunday, said his trainer, Elliott Walden. Avanzado is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup.

Avanzado, who is trained by Doug O'Neill and owned by Cees Stable, won back-to-back races during the summer at Del Mar after arriving from Argentina in the spring. He won a swiftly run optional claimer in August and followed with a three-quarter-length win in the restricted Pirates Bounty on Sept. 7.

In both his wins, Avanzado set a spirited pace while under pressure. "He's training phenomenally and it will be fun to see him go against a better class of horse," O'Neill said. Tyler Baze rides Avanzado, who drew post 6.

Avanzado could get some early pace pressure from speedball True Passion, a winner of six races this year, including the Grade 3 Philadelphia Park Breeders' Cup on July 6.

A lively pace would set things up for 8-year-old Say Florida Sandy, the richest New York-bred of all-time with more than $1.9 million in earnings. Say Florida Sandy sheds nine pounds in the Forest Hills after a sixth-place finish as the favorite in the restricted General Douglas MacArthur, in which he carried 125 pounds. Aaron Gryder rides Say Florida Sandy, who will track the early leaders from post 5.

Dash for Daylight, who won his last three races, stakes at Ellis and Mountaineer, makes his first start at Belmont. "It's a step up; it's a little different from Ellis Park to Belmont," Walden said. "He's a competitive horse and this is a competitive race that doesn't look like it has a real standout."

Sunray Spirit, who adds blinkers, won the Cowdin here last year. Multiple Choice has been running well against tougher. Classy veteran Esteemed Friend returns to Belmont. Paging completes the field.

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