09/30/2008 11:00PM

Woodbine's Nearctic shapes up as key prep

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The final round of potential preps for the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint comes this weekend, with the Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine likely to have the most impact.

Heros Reward, the Maryland standout trained by Dale Capuano, is the probable favorite for the six-furlong Nearctic, a Grade 2 turf race also expected to get Turf Sprint hopefuls True to Tradition, Storm Treasure, Mulmur, Starticus, The Great Caruso, Quietly Mine, and Starvinsky. The Nearctic will be part of the ESPN broadcast emanating from Woodbine on Saturday.

Other possible preps for the BC Turf Sprint this weekend are the Prix de l'Abbaye on Sunday at Longchamp in France, and two Saturday races at Keeneland: the Shadwell Turf Mile and Woodford Stakes.

Marchand d'Or, arguably the top turf sprinter in Europe this year, is the top name in the about five-furlong Prix de l'Abbaye, but the 5-year-old gelding is highly unlikely to run back in the Breeders' Cup, according to the International Racing Bureau. However, there are other possibilities, depending on what transpires, including Borderlescott and Equiano.

The Grade 1 Shadwell, like a key pair of middle-distance turf races run last weekend - the Kelso at Belmont and the Oak Tree BC Mile at Santa Anita - is liable to possibly produce a starter or two for the BC Turf Sprint. Turn-back prospects who couldn't quite get the distance of those races would figure to have more late kick when shortening up to the 6 1/2 furlongs of the famed downhill course at Santa Anita.

"It's something to seriously think about," said trainer Scooter Dickey, who will send out Kingship in the Shadwell Mile. "We want to see what he does at a mile before we do that, though."

The Woodford, run at 5 1/2 furlongs on the Keeneland turf, will be a critical prep for Smart Enough, the Maryland-based gelding who has compiled a 10 for 16 record when racing primarily in turf sprints. Smart Enough has not raced since April 13.

Meanwhile, California Flag jumped squarely into the BC Turf Sprint picture when he pulled a 22-1 surprise in the Morvich on opening day of the Oak Tree meet. California Flag, trained by Brian Koriner, earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure in the Morvich and clearly would be a major contender with something similar in the Breeders' Cup.