Just five older horses signed on for the six-furlong main track event, but the presence of the red-hot Tribesman and Vicarino makes this a race that fans of fast Thoroughbreds won't want to miss. It goes as the third race on the card.
Kjell H. Qvale's California homebred Tribesman has led at every call of his last five races for trainer Roger W. Hansen. In the $100,000 Phoenix Gold Cup over six furlongs at Turf Paradise Feb. 16, the 4-year-old Tribal Rule gelding set a sizzling pace (:21.30, :43.17) and still ran away from the prohibitive choice Idiot Proof in the final furlong. He won by 1 3/4 lengths over last year's TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) runner-up in an outstanding time of 1:07.80.
Tribesman's other wins during the streak all came in Northern California, including the Sausalito Stakes Nov. 23 at Golden Gate Fields. Chad Schvaneveldt, who has been aboard each time since the streak began in October, rides Tribesman once more. The bay was assigned top weight of 123 pounds for his graded stakes debut.
Harry J. Aleo's Vicarino broke the five-furlong track mark at Bay Meadows Feb. 21 for trainer Greg Gilchrist even though the 4-year-old colt spotted his rivals a head start in the allowance event. Vicarino's clocking was :55.93 on a track rated wet fast.
The Bay Meadows Sprint is also the first in a graded stakes for Vicarino, who has Russell Baze aboard and carries 121. Vicarino's connections are the same as for 2005 sprint champion Lost in the Fog.
The Vicar colt won back-to-back stakes in Fresno County Fair's Harvest Futurity and Golden Gate's Stinson Beach Stakes in 2006-07. Vicarino was out of action for more than a year following the Stinson Beach.
The Kentucky-bred faced Tribesman in his comeback race, a starter allowance event at Golden Gate Jan. 13. Tribesman prevailed in the six-furlong test by 2 1/4 lengths over Vicarino, who tired to third after pressing Tribesman's hot splits of :21.34 and :43.10.
Gilchrist's bay colt returned to win an allowance race at Bay Meadows Feb. 7 by seven lengths. He made it back-to-back wins at Bay Meadows with his record-setting performance at five furlongs last month. That effort was all the more impressive because Vicarino hesitated and hopped at the start of the allowance dash, breaking last in the field of five and giving up two lengths to his opponents. Baze angled Vicarino to the outside entering the stretch, and they accelerated strongly to reel in the leaders and win by two lengths.
Vicarino has won five of seven lifetime starts while earning $121,925. Tribesman has six victories in 10 tries and banked $223,281.
Gilchrist said he is impressed with Tribesman.
"He's a racehorse," Gilchrist said. "Everything that horse does, he does fast. He runs fast and works fast."
When asked how he was going to beat Tribesman with Vicarino, Gilchrist responded, "I don't know. I don't know if it can be done. It hasn't been done in a while, I can tell you that.
"Tribesman no doubt will get the lead, but the difference this time is we have a dead-fit horse," said Gilchrist. "We'll be able to press him more than the first time. We have a good horse; whether he can beat Tribesman or not we'll find out Saturday."
Those two are the clear standouts in the field. Jack Hes Tops, trained by co-owner Dennis Ward, ran a distant second to Vicarino in the Feb. 7 allowance romp, the 4-year-old gelding's first start in nearly 11 months. The Florida-bred 4-year-old Double Action, conditioned by Jerry Hollendorfer, ran third in the same race.
Trainer Ron McAnally ships Bonfante north. The 7-year-old gelding is the old pro in the group with 10 wins from 29 starts and earnings of $576,121, much of his success coming on the grass. The Cal-bred son of Fruition has been the runner-up in his last three starts and in four of his past five, all but one of the races on turf.
$100,000 Bay Meadows Sprint Handicap (gr. III, Race 3, 1:45 p.m.), 4 & Up, 6 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Jack Hes Tops (CA), 112, Roberto M. Gonzalez
2. Double Action (FL), 114, Kyle Kaenel
3. Tribesman (CA), 123, Chad P. Schvaneveldt
4. Vicarino (KY), 121, Russell A. Baze
5. Bonfante (CA), 117, Frank T. Alvarado