Squirtle Squirt, winning the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Squirtle Squirt, winning the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Mike Corrado

Squirtle Squirt Sprints into Palos Verdes

Breeders' Cup Sprint champion and Eclipse Award finalist Squirtle Squirt begins his 2002 campaign in Sunday's $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap at Santa Anita. Squirtle Squirt delivered to trainer Bobby Frankel his first Breeders' Cup victory last October at Belmont Park, but hasn't scared away the competition, which has come up strong for the six-furlong contest.

Among the field of eight is defending Palos Verdes champion Men's Exclusive, who seeks to become the first successful defending champion since Native Diver repeated in 1965. Men's Exclusive would be the fifth 9-year-old to win the race should he get to the wire first.

The Palos Verdes has proven in recent years to be the place for champions to kick off their season. Lit de Justice (1196) and Kona Gold (2000) won Eclipse Awards after beginning their campaigns in the race. Sunday will mark the 50th running.

The field for the Palos Verdes, in post position order with jockeys and weights: Beaumes De Venise (Garrett Gomez, 113); Snow Ridge (Mike Smith, 116); Echo Eddie (Pat Valenzuela, 114); Squirtle Squirt (Jerry Bailey, 122); Explicit (Kent Desormeaux, 115); Ceeband (Matt Garcia, 117); Men's Exclusive (Laffit Pincay Jr., 117); and Silky Sweep (Gary Stevens, 115).