10/06/2003 11:00PM

'Yankee' may slip into Sprint

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Don't cross out Yankee Gentleman quite yet. Notwithstanding the horse's fourth-place finish Sunday in the Grade 1 Ancient Title Handicap, trainer John Shirreffs said Tuesday that Yankee Gentleman will train toward the Breeders' Cup Sprint. "He pulled up good, and if we can get some support for him, we're going," Shirreffs said.

Yankee Gentleman finished fourth as the 6-5 favorite in the Ancient Title, a race he needed to win to be assured a Breeders' Cup berth; Yankee Gentleman has never finished in the money in a graded stakes.

"He didn't have the best of trips," Shirreffs said. "I think the 1-hole really compromised him. We made a mistake; we probably should have let him go on instead of circling horses."

Breaking from the inside post, Yankee Gentleman dropped back, looped wide on the turn, then flattened out midstretch and was beaten slightly more than two lengths.

Shirreffs said Yankee Gentleman scoped clean afterward. "He was fine; we went over him with a fine-tooth comb," he said. "We were too far outside. It was loose and cuppy out there."

Even with no graded-stakes points, Yankee Gentleman still has a chance to get into the 14-runner Sprint. Early indications are that nine East Coast-based sprinters are pointing for the Sprint, but only four California-based runners are expected.

Buyers interested in Avanzado

Michael Cooper, owner of Ancient Title winner Avanzado, confirmed Tuesday that he had received inquiries from buyers looking for Sprint starter. Avanzado, a South American, would require a $200,000 supplement to run.

"There have been some offers to put up the supplemental fee in return for some ownership," Cooper said. "I probably won't pursue it. If he was going to run, I think I'd put the money up. Right now, I have pretty serious reservations about running him."

Cooper cited the 20-day turnaround and the desire to run Avanzado in New York this fall and next year as reasons to pass the Breeders' Cup. "He just really laid it all out Sunday," he said. "He's a 6-year-old horse, and if you try to get a horse to do that again in 20 days, you're messing with Mother Nature. I don't want to walk off the racetrack Oct. 25 and say, 'You did a stupid thing.'" The second- through fifth-place finishers from the Ancient Title will likely go on to the Sprint. While the status of runner-up Captain Squire will not be finalized until next week, indications are he will be pre-entered. Third-place finisher Bluesthestandard is expected to be supplemented to the Sprint for $90,000. Trainer Ted H. West said Tuesday that owner Jeffrey Sengara was "leaning toward" supplementing Bluesthestandard, who was beaten only 1 1/2 lengths in his first race since Aug. 17. Zavata, who finished fifth in the Ancient Title, came out of the race in good shape and also is expected to start in the Sprint.

Siphonizer's BC status in doubt

Siphonizer displaced his soft palate when he finished a distant fourth in the Grade 2 Norfolk Stakes on Sunday, and his status for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile is up in the air. Trainer Richard Mandella said it was not the first time that Siphonizer, Del Mar Futurity winner, had displaced his palate, but the problem had been manageable with a tongue tie.

The trainer said Siphonizer would be equipped with a figure-eight. "I haven't done that yet, because it hasn't been that big of a deal," he said. "Right now, we're still investigating. It's a little up in the air if we go into the Breeders' Cup. My excuse is taking nothing away from the winner."

Ruler's Court won the Norfolk by 14 lengths to establish himself as the likely Juvenile favorite. Trainer Bob Baffert said none of his three Norfolk starters - Consecrate, Coldntight, or Odds On - would run in the Breeders' Cup.

"They all went in with tender shins, and they all came out with whopper shins," Baffert said. "If you had a little shin on that track, it was going to come to life."

Johar going on to BC Turf

A sensational effort by Storming Home prevented Johar from winning a Grade 1 race Sept. 28 in just his second start following a layoff. But Mandella, Johar's trainer, foresees further improvement when Johar runs next in the Breeder's Cup Turf.

Runner-up in the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Handicap, Johar worked five furlongs Tuesday in 1:01.40, breezing. "He can still improve," Mandella said. "He was half-ready at Del Mar, and he still needed a little bit the other day [in the Hirsch]."

Johar is one of two Thoroughbred Corp. runners Mandella may saddle in the Breeders' Cup. The other is 3-year-old filly Dessert, winner of the Del Mar Oaks. Dessert was assigned 122-pound high weight for the $100,000 Harold C. Ramser Handicap on Sunday, but she worked a mile on Tuesday (1:45.40) and is being considered for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Mandella's other Breeders' Cup probables include Pleasantly Perfect (Classic), Minister Eric (Juvenile), and Halfbridled (Juvenile Fillies).

Got Koko works before dawn

Trainer Bruce Headley is doing his part in keeping Got Koko out of the spotlight - by training her before dawn. The 4-year-old filly worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 on Tuesday at 4:45 a.m., as she gears up for a Breeders' Cup Distaff showdown with Azeri and Sightseek. Headley's daughter, Karen Headley, worked Got Koko, and the trainer said the filly "came back very happy."

The work was the first for Got Koko since her Sept. 28 upset of Azeri in the Lady's Secret Handicap. Since then, much attention has been focused on Azeri's illness and the chances for Sightseek to clinch the Eclipse Award by winning the Distaff. It would be Sightseek's first win at Santa Anita, where Got Koko is 5 for 7.

"There's always a home-court advantage, wherever your home happens to be," Headley said.

Asked if he was surprised at the limited attention Got Koko has received following her Lady's Secret win, the trainer replied: "I'm not surprised, because Azeri is a great filly, and Sightseek has a great record. She's conquered the East."

Special Ring on course for Mile

Special Ring, who finished fourth as the 7-10 favorite Sunday in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile, remains on course for the BC Mile. "Nothing happened; we're going to be in great shape Oct. 25," trainer Julio Canani said, cautioning bettors: "I'm telling you not to lose faith."

Canani admitted that Special Ring was flat in his loss to Designed for Luck, but he said Special Ring would be trained to produce speed.

"The only thing I have to do is sharpen him up," Canani said. "He's been working three-quarters. He only needs two half-miles, and he'll be sharp."

Canani is seeking his third BC Mile victory, having won in 1999 with Silic and 2001 with Val Royal.