Sprint Preview (9/25): Bonapaw Takes Vosburgh

All systems are on go for Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) winner Bonapaw to leave Belmont Park later this week for Arlington Park and a date in the Oct. 26 Sprint. Bonapaw, the second choice in the $300,000 Vosburgh, controlled the pace in the seven-furlong race to win by 2 1/2 lengths over favorite Aldebaran in 1:22.34. Regular rider Gerald Melancon was aboard the winner.

The wheels to run Bonapaw in the Sprint were set in motion after owners James and Dennis Richard of New Orleans were informed that a $90,000 supplemental payment instead of a $200,000 payment would get their 6-year-old gelding in the six-furlong Sprint. The twin brothers initially were under the impression that Bonapaw's sire, Sabona, was not Breeders' Cup nominated at the time Bonapaw was conceived, thus calling for a 20% supplement of the $1 million Sprint purchase. Instead, it was Bonapaw who was not nominated as a foal.

Bonapaw's chance for success in the Sprint seems enhanced because of his recent track record at Arlington. He won the mile Hanshin Cup Handicap (gr. III) in 1:34 flat and the six-furlong Arlington Sprint Handicap in 1:09.13 over the summer. Trainer Norman Miller III plans to give Bonapaw about a week off before beginning preparation. The only time a Vosburgh winner captured the Sprint was in 1999, when Artax proved victorious.

Frank Minervini, odds maker of Las Vegas Coast Casinos, has only three runners in single digits for the Sprint. Orientate, who has won his last four starts, all stakes, is co-favored at 4-1 with Swept Overboard. The latter hasn't run since winning the mile Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) in May. Swept Overboard has been sold to stand at stud at Shadai Stallion Station in Japan, but the sale will not interfere with his Sprint engagment.

At 8-1 is last year's Sprint winner, Squirtle Squirt, who finished fourth in the Forego Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga behind winner Orientate in his last start. Squirtle Squirt might be retired pending his proposed sale to the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders Association.

Four horses are pegged at 10-1, including 2000 Sprint winner Kona Gold and last year's runner-up, the filly Xtra Heat. Kona Gold has been out only twice this year and ran unplaced in the Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) in July in his last start. Xtra Heat won the Endine Handicap (gr. III) the first week in September in her last race.

The weekend's stakes calendar (Sept. 28-29) is relatively light, but things heat up the following weekend with the Phoenix Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland, the Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita, and the Forest Hills Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont.