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Smart Play for Centralinteligence

One-time Kentucky Derby hopeful excels at shorter distances.

Ironies abound when it comes to Centralinteligence, who was bought as a two-turn classic prospect but has turned out to be a crack sprinter.

The intentional misspelling of 'intelligence' would qualify as another piece of irony that surrounds the son of Smarty Jones , who was bred by Smarty's owner, Patricia Chapman. Centralinteligence is slated to compete in the Nov. 1 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I).

Bloodstock agent Bob Feld went to $90,000 to land Centralinteligence out of the Lane's End consignment to the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale.

"He had a route body but a quick look to him," said Feld. "We thought he'd get two turns. Looking at his pedigree page you see a bunch of Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winnersSecretariat, Seattle Slew, Smarty Jones, and he looked like a Derby horse to me. We never expected him to be this quick."

Both Feld and Centralinteligence have some California quirkiness to them. When Feld thinks he's got a potential Derby horse, he gives them names with 18 letters because "I want to be the first person to win the Derby with a horse with 18 letters. It would be cool to have that distinction. I named Atswhatimtalknbout (fourth in the 2003 Derby) for Wayne Hughes. I've got Meetingwithdestiny and Toomuchinformation. But I was afraid Imawildandcrazyguy (fourth in the 2007 Derby) was going to beat me to it. Yeah, I know I misspelled 'intelligence,' but I had to take a letter out of the name somewhere."

Feld buys yearlings for California owners John and Jerry Amerman, but the Amermans decided to sit out the 2009 yearling season due to the economic downturn. Nevertheless, they put money into two horses Feld bought in 2009. Feld's Bongo Racing Stable partnership group put in money and trainer Ron Ellis found two owners who came in for a piece. Centralinteligence was one of the horses, and the other was Stonewall Jackson, who cost $150,000 at the sale but is now a show jumper. The latter-named didn't get the 18 letters because he was seen as a turf specialist.

Centralinteligence has won twice at Santa Anita Park, site of the Breeders' Cup, both in allowance company. His only two-turn race came at Del Mar in 2011, along with his first bout of quirkiness. Snatched up going into the first turn, he resented that treatment and never got involved. In the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) in December of that year, he remained glued to the rail and was eventually eased. In his most recent effort, the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes (gr. I), the 5-year-old gelding made a left turn leaving the gate and again decided it wasn't his day.

"We've learned he's quirky," said Feld, "but when he is able to get outside and in the clear, he runs triple-digit speed figures. Ron and I figured stretching him to a mile, he should be near the front and clear of any dirt. With a little softer pace going a mile as opposed to sprinting, they might not catch him. After setting the pace, he's still got that late, finishing kick. I think the mile is really going to benefit him."

Out of the Seattle Slew mare Shootforthestars, Centralinteligence has four victories from 13 lifetime starts. He was out for more than 10 months with an ankle chip from mid-2012 to this past May. In his third race back Centralinteligence scored in the Triple Bend Handicap (gr. I) at seven furlongs.

"He's training really well right now," said Feld. "Ron is a master at pointing for races, so we expect a top effort. He's a good horse if he gets the right trip."

Feld manages the Bongo partnership, which typically runs 10 or so horses. He's enthused because all of his longtime Bongo partners are in on this horse. One more irony: a Dirt Mile competitor is Holy Lute, who is owned by Class Racing Stable, an organization Feld was once a part of.

"I designed two of the silks that will compete in the Dirt Mile," said Feld. "That doesn't happen a lot."

That should give him hope that an 18-letter horse will rally in the Derby sometime in the near future.